Monday, 22 March 2010

Irena Sendler

This is Irena Sendler, who died aged 98. She was a plumber in the Warsaw ghetto. She saved 2,500 infants and children by smuggling them out in her toolbox and van. She kept a list of their names in a glass jar under a tree in her garden and after the war tried to reunite them with relatives. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize the year it was awarded to Al Gore - not a bad bloke of course but not someone who actually put his life on the line for peace like Irena. She was German - I think Irena means peace (I checked that with Bob because his mum had the same name).

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The return of the carrier pigeon

Yesterday my computer broke. The hard drive ground to a halt.
Thankfully Bob being a super computer wizard managed to save all the files to his wacky filestore system. But for now I'm without my usual computer which sounds odd because it's only really half my life, or less, that I've had a usual computer. I'm a self taught computer user and a Bob backed up one. He is my computer guru. Without him I'd still be using an Amstrad (maybe someone reading this still is). But when they break down I know nothing.
At least with a carrier pigeon you could give it a bit of TLC, put it's wing in a sling, give it as leg brace made from matchsticks and a bit of polly-filler to eat. But I can't think of anything useful to do with a broken computer. Maybe if we all used carrier pigeons more there would be fewer now making a great deal of noise in the trees around here as they get a bit amorous for Spring. Maybe I should start a campagin for the return of the carrier pigeon as a medium of communication. Perhaps someone could do a tweet on that!

Friday, 26 February 2010

A fresh expression of Lent

I went to a meeting on Wednesday (and survived - nice beetroot soup and chocolate brownies) about Fresh Expressions. It's a phrase that winds me up when used in connection with the church. Let's face it most of the so called fresh expressions are already well past their sell by date. And what should we call what's left: stale expressions? Can't really see anyone going for that. It all sounds like a coffee outlet to me or as Hannah sometimes says 'the church trying too hard to be trendy'. Added to which I'm often grumpy in Lent. It's not the giving things up, as I rarely do. It's more the notion that Lent is Lent and we should all get on with it. Just like some Bishop said Advent is about sin, so Lent is a time for the church to pontificate about what Lent is and stuff. I advocate letting it all hang out in Lent. Seems to me Lent is bonkers. Half way between Christmas and Easter is just when all the things we put off until after Christmas and all the ones we want to get in before Easter colide. Then there's Lent groups and Lent lunches and Lent prayers and Lent this and that. So how about letting it all hang out in Lent. Here's a few words about Lent being bonkers to get you started:

Lent is bonkers

Lent is bonkers:
you and me God
belting round the universe
sometimes this way
sometimes that.
There’s those who say
‘Be quiet’
And I say ‘Naff off’.
There are those that say
‘Do it this way’
And I say ‘Not on your life’.
Folding paper,
painting faces,
holding string,
sticking notes on everything,
I cartwheel across
from one planet to another.
But there’s a day coming:
you and me God
we know this day,
when everything hangs
in the balance
and the Life Giver
gives it all up
that we may live on.
I’ve got it in my sights now:
my heart is racing,
I can’t stop it.
Lent is bonkers:
so much for forty days and nights.
When only one counts
this is the One we can count on.

JAL: 26.02.2010

Friday, 12 February 2010

Sad and speechless

I've just posted a piece on the Women in Ministries blog at
about the treatment of some women detained in Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre. You may have seen the hunger strike there reported in the press recently.
The events described by Mojirola, a detainee from Nigeria with three British born children, are appauling. I'm sad but speechless.
The forgein secretary seems to think it is OK to hide information about the abuse of a British resident on the grounds that it might negatively influence our relationship with another country, as reported earlier this week. I wonder what country wants to continue such a relationship. It's like a person deciding not to report her/his brother-in-law for domestic violence because he might not speak to him/her again!
Doubtless the home secretary will now find some way of fudging the issue about the abusive treatment of women in Yarl's Wood. These are our sisters.

These are our sisters,
wonderful sisters:
We will not forget them.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Sad but wise

Over on Jane's blog she's wondering about being sad but wise. It seems to me that one of the wonders of a trinitarian God is that God can be many different things at once, so here's a few words on that subject:

Sad but wise

Sad God, wise too,
I also weep with you.
I examine myself and see what you see,
Or at least some of it.
I am sad but wiser.
I look at the world and see what you see,
Or at least some of it.
I am sad but wiser.

Sad wise God,
Who in Jesus
Wisely but sadly called Lazarus back to life,
Call us back too,
That both wise and sad
We may make a new start
Amongst your kin and kindom.

JAL: 11.02.2010

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Cell and cloister

As we walked round our cloister (other people call it Greenhead Park), the walking buddies reflected on some of the seven sacred spaces. It is currently being redeveloped - hence the keep out sign.

In our own homes, we acknowledge, different spaces fill different functions. The cell is really important in the kind of lives we lead. To have our own personal individual space is a priority. We decorate it as we like. We may have more than one area that fills this function: bedroom and study can be different sorts of cells. These are definitely luxuries for many people in our culture. Early monastics slept in communal spaces, but few of us share with large groups on a long term basis now, unlike those living in poverty in poor families world-wide. New monasticism in our own homes is one thing, but how to keep it fair and just is quite another.

So we kept walking. Our daily route has become our cloister. Others join in sometimes and we meet and greet as well as walk and talk. Too many things at once can leave you breathless. We pass the diggers in the park and the squirrels cross our paths too. Our cloister is public space but we only greet people we know and that isn't very many. Once again we see the private side of life in Britain rather than the wider communal understanding that the early monastics had. Even so, it has made us think about our own spaces and how we use them, our hopes and dreams and what we would like to change.
God you call us through the wood;
through the wood you speak to us.
May we, your wood-wise ones,
touch wood with you,
hang onto your promises
and help shape the dreams of community
that only cross-wise commitment brings.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

More new monasticism

I've been getting more excited about new monasticsm this week. I've been reading several things about 'seven sacred spaces': places which are important to community building. These are found in both the early monastic traditions and the current 'fresh expressions' (yes I know it sounds like a coffee outlet) of monasticism.
They are:
Cell: a space for the individual to grow, pray, rest and reflect;
Chapel: a communal space for worship and liturgy
Garden: a space for physical work and the growth of what the community needs to thrive;
Refectory: an eating and serving space;
Cloister: a moving and greeting space;
Scriptorum: a sort of study/library space;
and Chapter: a sort of communal conversation space.
Some writers suggest that these spaces have now largely become individual or relegated to the private sphere. We have our own spaces and shared space is more for business and commerce, leisure and learning. But is it sacred: a place to encounter God?
Well any space could be of course. But I began by thinking about the spaces I use and their meaning to me. I agreed with some writers that Cell is now more meaningful to me than Chapel. George Lings suggests we are breeding a race of 'de-churched hermits' who do their spirituality in their private or personal space but less so in public worship and litury and chapel space, partly because our churches are not often winsome enough to do this anymore.
I think I might be a de-churched hermit. It's not a bad thing to be, but it might have it's limitations. However, it can also be very attractive. Sometimes I just don't want to leave my cell.
Of course there are other sacred spaces in our house. The corridors do act as a sort of moving and greeting space like a clositer as George also suggested - but then we have big corridors! Garden has grown in importance as a sacred space, especially in this house as it has a nice but useful garden. Refectory can be on our knee in the sitting room as often as at table in the dining room - such a common trend but it doens't mean it's not sacred.
I'm going to continue thinking about these spaces for a bit and talk to others about them. If you want to leave a comment that would be much appreciated.
God of space,
outer, inner and virtual,
space us out with your presence
that we may connect with each other
and with the earth
and make community a place
where all may live on.