In the silent garden,
we stood with graves laid out
as if disbelief could turn back time.
Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;
awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,
silent as the grave.
In the hushed corner plot,
woeful folk quietly plant raised beds
as if peace could descend with new blooms.
Sometimes, silence sings collusions victory dance;
soft, scented, scared, scarred,
hushed with inaction.
In the secret terrace,
weans play a raucous hide ’n seek
as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.
Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –
caught, caressed, carried, carved,
gleeful Easter’s fête.
In festival garden,
world-weary ones feast on merriment,
as if lament will be heard no more.
Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,
plaited, pretty, presented, pricey
fanfare of rebirth.
Craig Muir March 2017
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
I wanted to write something that viewed Jesus’ burial site as a garden – as that would be the natural place for Mary to meet with “the Gardener” But I found myself imagining a park where different activities go on alongside one another and yet still told a story that takes a community from despair to delight.
In one corner is a burial area, – so often there is little to be said after the formal words – we say little but are reluctant to move away.
in another corner people are gardening – finding some healing in doing so – but it also contrasts the way silence can be companionable with the times when our failure to speak out colludes with injustice.
In another corner the children (heard but not seen) play (weans is not a natural world for me but it allows the part rhyme of we/wo/we/wo to begin each second line) children really allow life to remain quiet for long – they are the reminder to us that life goes on – that so many moments that seem like a full stop – are really just a comma, as the story unfolds. (And couldn’t resist the homophone of fête with fate)
In another corner, it’s time to party, parade, feast, festival – Easter time!
So if Lent is a fast, why is our Lent Theme all about Feasts and Festivals?” Well, partly because the United Reformed Church is following that theme in various guises throughout the year, but also because Lent is as much about feasting as it is about fasting. Each Sunday is a feast day, and not counted in the 40 fast days of Lent. Our Lent Gatherings will be a time to reflect on the way our journeys can take various turns, that some are feasts and others fasts but all take us towards the greatest festival of all … Easter.
The sessions have been inspired by the wonderful prayers in this years Prayer Handbook, for example
We pick up the stones
of the hurts of the world
violence and poverty,
disaster, and starvation
wanting you to turn them into bread;
Carol Dixon, URC Prayer Handbook 2017
God so loved …
this home for humanity,
rich varieties of shape, colour, language, identity, story
that God sent his son not to condemn but to save.
May we value all of humanity with the same love,
share the same willingness for sacrifice
and make the same risks
that God makes for us
Vaughan Jones, URC Prayer Handbook 2017
In the midst of a fast, we will enjoy a feast of poetry, song, prayer and discovery. We will touch, look, taste and imagine. We will roam from wilderness to garden, pausing at a well as darkness falls and we catch our breath. Come and join in
be blessed, Craig
We will celebrate Christmas in song. No surprise there – whether in the four songs of Luke’s Nativity story, or our carolling traditions or the constant soundtrack of popular favourites – we will sing our way through Christmas.
In choosing our carols I try to ensure that across each service most of the favourites are sung but will also include something rare – it might just be or become someones favourite. It means that I get to sing everything at least once and hopefully congregations will as well. I have a particular liking for Carols that have strong harmonies and descants (I can’t sing them but love to be there as better voices soar) and those carols telling the story of Jesus and sharing hope, wonder and joy.
On both counts “Hark! the Herald Angels sing” hits the mark. It speaks of glory, peace, mercy, reconciliation, joy, adoration, incarnation, and a restored relationship between God and creation all set to a wonderful tune that reaches new heights when the descant amplifies the final verse
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings
risen with healing in his wings …
But in different ways, I also love to be reminded that “God surprises earth with heaven, /coming here on Christmas Day” The hymn that takes us there is so modern, asking the questions that challenge so many assumptions,
Who would think that what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army
proud in purpose, proved in worth?
It is sung to such an innocuous tune in Scarlet Ribbons, that we could be tempted to dismiss such offering as unbecoming in worship – yet it reminds us that if we seek to follow this story through into our everyday lives, that God will surprise us, calling people to live in ways that challenge a world so often deaf to God’s wisdom.
May God surprise you this Christmas;
May you hear the angels sing;
and know God’s blessing for the New Year
November: Remembrance month – All Saints Day, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday swiftly following. Each bringing their own memories and rituals. Memory is an important part of who we think we are, hence, when we are unable to remember, or we are faced with someone who seems to have forgotten themselves, life is painful.
At Greenbelt I heard Professor John Swinton ask “Who Am I When I Forget Who I Am?” He was presenting his book, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.
He talked about a three-fold self in which firstly we bring our experiences of living, secondly we bring the stories our social roles tell and thirdly we have an identity given by our community. Hence, the difficulty of dementia is we lose personhood when the community loses us. He argues that the problem is not that people become forgetful but that they are forgotten. Hence it is important that someone holds our memories well. If Mum seems to have forgotten who you are, don’t forget who she is and things she has always enjoyed. Remember that our bodies hold our memories just as much as our minds – so a song. a smell, a ritual takes us into emotion and open hearts just as much as an ability to still tell our stories. For all of us memories change over time, we live in the present tense and the future is before us all, still with a sense of call and vocation. If we struggle to articulate our past so be it, we are still experiencing this moment.
So our memories are held by those who remember us and amongst those who remember is God. Even if we seem to forget God, God does not forget us. None of which negates the difficulties of dementia, but it is a reminder that we must not define people by their condition. Each person still knows the experience of living, still have social roles, are still part of the communities that hold them close and are still beautiful children of God. The task for each of us is to participate in the stories we have been given,
Remember in November and be blessed
Here we are, our first month as Ansty Road United Reformed Church, there has been much to do and we have been focusing on some of the practical issues of merging the two churches and leaving Harefield Road. At our forthcoming Church and Elders’ Meetings it will be time to think once again about Mission aims and objectives.
We began the process last August when we discussed six themes drawn from our existing mission statements and grouped them with some biblical characters that emerged from the discussions we had around the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church during 2015. The conclusions we come to as we look forward may be very different but for the moment I would like to continue working with these themes.
Praying like Hannah, 1 Samuel 1
Hannah’s prayer was soaked in pain, bitterness, anguish and grief. It produced praise, power, potential, prophecy, proclamation. Prayer will be at the heart of who we are, it will be place where healing begins, it will be available through the labyrinth, regular prayer times and in an encouragement to spend regular time with God.
Growing like Mary of Bethany, Luke 10, John 11 & 12
Mary is the disciple who learns and worships at the feet of Jesus. Discipleship is about growing faith through learning from the bible and for each other. We will create regular opportunities to explore the bible, make a faithful response and create discussions that help people think about faith and spirituality.
Welcoming like Martha, Luke 10, John 11 & 12
Martha; housekeeper, theologian, disciple, witness – who together with Mary creates a culture of welcome and worship. We will be committed to creating welcome, hospitality and friendship where people are inspired to worship and witness.
Encouraging like Barnabas: Acts 4, 9, 11
Barnabas is an encourager, he eases tension, finds the best in people, goes out of his way to welcome people into the church. We shall encourage people to make new beginnings and develop their skills. We will put our prayers and biblical pondering into action, emphasising a care for the vulnerable.
Witnessing like Mary Magdalene: Luke 8, 24, John 20
Mary, first witness to the resurrection, yet has been misrepresented through history and sidelined by patriarchal narratives. We will seek ways to witness to Jesus however much the message may be sidelined or ignored. We will explore developing a new centre in Stoke. We will network and partner with people of good will in creating loving communities.
Celebrating like the dancing cripple: Acts 3
A man’s life is turned around when he meets the risen Christ through Peter and John. His reaction is to dance with joy and amaze those around him. We need to celebrate life’s moments, celebrate the good news of Christ, celebrate a love shared. As Dory told us one day, these moments are like a comma changing the flow of a sentence – so let’s find reasons to dance.
So be prepared to share your hopes and ideas. Be open to the way the Spirit is moving, join with us as we explore God’s Mission for Ansty Road United Reformed Church.