Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Ok so the blog has been quiet - apologies for that.

I've also failed in the Christmas card department but there you go. So Merry Christmas to all!

I have however discovered a wondorous Christmas recipe in the form of Willie's Chocolate mince pies. Michael the true mince pie fan is less keen but I think they're delicious!

I had thought of givine you all the joy of the Muppets' Bohemian Rhapsody but instead, in honour of all the folks in snow in High Wycombe (and elsewhere) at the moment, my virtual Christmas card is courtesy of Simon's Cat. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Down and Up

I was off from work with a bit of a nasty bug the week before last - getting that real God-given imperative to STOP and not do things fora while. It was worthwhile for sure. When I was feeling much better, Michael and I went to see UP which is an excellent film. It is deeply surprising. It's not the cheery happy-go-lucky film you might expect it to be. It mixes deep tragedy with hope and manages to tell the story of a lifetime in only a few minutes with great expertise. having chatted about it to various people since, I've discovered I was not the only one to blub during it either (one person told me they saw it in 3D and found the 3D specs a handy thing to hide behind!)

What UP does have is an amazing sense of HOPE, of the impoprtance of dreams and the need to reconnect the generations, something a friend of mine got me thinking about at a meeting in London the other week. Today, when I was exploring a project I've been pondering for a while, I came across a site which no doubt I'm behind the times in finding and you all know about it already but it is new to me and intrigues me. the site is called 43 Things and invites people to register things they wantto achieve in life, in terms of personal relationships, dreams, aspirations, achievements or goals. Now I've never been much of a person to know "where I want to be in5 years time" the few times I HAVE made such goals, God has nudged me gently to realisation that the opposite is going to happenand be so much better most of the time too! I'm not sure I'm going to be registering my 43 things (or more or less I don't think it HAS to be 43!)

What fascinates me about the siteis that you can see other peoples aspirations and the goals they've achieved, how long it took them and how it made them feel. The site also groups people's entries underheadings and you can see the most popular ones according to type. So for all of us working in ministry, it might be useful to know that the top ten aspiration sin terms of spirituality and belief for this entirely random selection of people are as follows:

1. be more spiritual
2. find a religion that will fit my beliefs
3. tithe
4. read the bible
5. pray more
6. meditate
7. go to church
8. witness a miracle
9. meet the Dalai Lama
10. become an ordained minister

Now I don't suppose there is that much surprising in there. Christianity has a fairly strong presence but that's to be expected asmost entries are probably from the US. What it mademe think about though is that the spiritual dreams and desires of people in general are not asdramatic and exotic as we might think. When we're working in ministry, we may tend to need everythign to be the latest, snazziest most alt., emergent piece of unique worship. We might think the Psalm has to be just right, the candles in the right places, the vestments perfect and co-ordinated, the worship band the best they can be, the actions in perfect unison, the drama well-timed and audible etc etc etc. Yet the people want the inspiration to meditate, the pray more, to read the bible, to be more spiritual.

Sometimes I wonder why it is I and so many others find a true spiritual home in Taize and I realise in many ways it's because it manages that great simplicity. The music is solidly Bible-based, melodic, yet not showy or "catchy". The community encourages you in a simple way to pray more, to be more spiritual not just at times in the church but in serving others in the simple things. The Bible is at the centre od so much that is done there, through the books the brothers write, through the art and music they create and the sessions they lead with young people. Now I know that this great simplicity has many complicated systems that keep it going - organising food for 6,000 young people three times a day doesn't just happen - and yet the simplicity is what counts. Why is it though that finding that simplicity can be so much more complicated?

I've been watching a bit of Diarmaid MacCulloch's new series on Christianity and our 2000 years of Christian history can be a source of great inspiration but also a burden of disputes and complications. I think my favourite line so far was this:
"Jesus taught that it was more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle - and some Christians listened to that!"
We can over-complicate our lives and our churches when we look to the trappings and the consumer culture of getting church just how we want it. Sometimes the simpler things work better.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sermon on Bible Sunday

Sometimes I have heard people describe the Bible as a book that has all the answers. That might well be an apt starting place for a sermon on Bible Sunday. I remember when I was at school receiving my Gideon Bible and being intrigued and, in truth, encouraged by the sections that said, “Where to look in the Bible when...” You’re distressed, feeling lonely, grieving. As a teenager that was very reassuring. That in times of crisis, there was this book I could turn to for the answer to my problems. At times, when I was distressed about something I would turn to these pages and they would direct me to a passage that brought me some comfort. At other times I would look up the relevant chapter and verses, only to be bemused as to why this particular passage was suggested.

As St Paul says, when I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. Now I am an adult, I have put away childish things. Well now I’m no longer a teenager I don’t expect the Bible to open at exactly the right place to give me just the words I need. I don’t expect the Bible to have all the answers. No instead, I know that the Bible has all the questions, as our readings today show.

I can imagine that someone in Job’s position would have found the suggestions in the back of the Gideon Bible, fell a little short of offering him comfort. His family killed, his wealth lost, his health poor. Where is comfort for him? Not in the words of his friends and advisers but in speaking with God, in understanding that he does not understand, in realising his tiny place in a vast universe and yet the enormous love of his creator.

As it is Bible Sunday today, I can tell you that the book of Job is in fact a personal favourite of mine. That and the book of Philippians. I wonder what your favourite books might be? Job is a favourite for me not because the poor man suffers so much but because of a few things it features. There is the witness of Job’s youngest adviser, Elihu who offers the greatest wisdom and is not chastised by God as the other three friends of Job are. Elihu says

"I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.

7 I thought, 'Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.'

8 But it is the spirit in a man,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.

9 It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.

10 "Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.

As someone who works with young people, this passage is a great encouragement to those I work with.

There is also a wonderful passage describing the wonders of creation in God’s response to Job of “the storehouses of snow” and “the place where the light dwells” and the passage we have today, Job’s realisation of his place in the world as one creature of the vast creation of God. Can we extend that to see not only ourselves as that beloved part of God’s creation but also to see that each of those around us is such a part? For Job this revelation is confirmed when he prays not for himself for his own sorry situation but prays for God’s forgiveness for his friends.

The question I get asked very often, especially by young people is

How can you believe in God when there is so much suffering in world?

I tend to respond, How can I not believe in God when there is so much suffering in the world?

In a world of great suffering, the idea that we are alone in that suffering is too terrible for words. These two Bible passages both speak of an individual’s relationship with God and what that can offer in times of sorrow. That relationship is not with some distant unknowing God but in one who humbled himself in the form of servant and being part of the world felt deeply for those around him.

In every suffering, Christ is with us, in his tears over the death of his friend Lazarus, clearing the temple of those not honouring God, calming a storm on a boat, being castigated by the Pharisees, seeing a Rich Young Man doing everything for his faith except the one thing that was most important, the giving up of his wealth, washing the feet of his disciples who still did not understand, praying for release in the Garden of Gethsemane, on trial before the Sanhedrin, in pain on the cross, seeing the fear of his disciples in the locked room at his resurrection.

This is a God who wants to be in relationship with his creatures. The Bible tells us about God as a guide book tells us about a place we might be going on holiday. It’s an excellent guidebook written by people who know the place well and have experienced it themselves. They are very personal accounts of other people’s relationships with God. This book of Job is like a private diary of one man’s journey with God. The guide book is no substitute for being there though. We can only know God personally if we spend time with God, personally and corporately.

Our church communities are places where people can meet with God and come to know what God is like. That’s something of a challenge to us isn’t it? When people see our church community they are seeing a glimpse of the God we believe in: Seeing a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. What would someone see in our church? Committed service, love, praise, unity, a family of all generations, from diverse backgrounds, serving separately during the week and joined on Sundays in worship? How might we as a community show that Kingdom even more clearly to those who join us on a Sunday, to those who visit this church during the week, to those who live within our parish?

I’m developing a lot more questions here.

So, if I’m saying the Bible is full of questions, where do we find the answers? The answers come through prayer and reflection upon those passages.

Jesus asks the blind man:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

What would our answer be to Jesus’ question? For ourselves? For our church? Would we trust that God could accomplish for us what we want? Could we like Job, honestly say:

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Yet it’s not only about our own relationship with God but our relationships with each other. Job who has been through so much personal tragedy finds favour with God when he prays for his friends: When he looks beyond himself to God and to those around him. Job describes his experience much like that of the blind man in the gospel

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.

Have you both heard and seen God? Have you heard about God but not seen him at work in your life or in the work around you? Seeing God, meeting him intimately however doesn’t result in some self importance and pride but in a deep awareness of our own failings and yet God’s love for us despite all of those failings.

So what would your answer to Jesus be:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

The question is in the bible the answer is to be found in your deepening relationship with God. In your deepening relationship with those around you and in the deepening relationship of this church with the people of its parish. May we all find this deepening relationship and find more questions...

Job 42:1-17

42Then Job answered the Lord: 2“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

7After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.” 9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

10And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17And Job died, old and full of days.
Mark 10:46-52

46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Life in all it's fullness

This is post number 10.10 so I thought it only apt to share the lovely news that I have a picture in the exhibition of the Worcester Society of Artists at Worcester City Museum and Gallery.

The picture is this one, which I finished only recently.

Tonight we're off to our regulare meeting which is an appraisal of the paintings in the exhibition. I did hear some whispers that the person doing the appraisal is a bit tough though!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ministry Palette

Ministry Palette
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
A quick post with a picture I did this evening. It's a response to Bishop John Pritchard's wisdom which he shared with our diocesan clergy and lay ministers today. He talks about ministry being something beautiful for God which is individual to each of us but painted from a common pallete of three colours:
Gold - the Glory of God
Red - the pain of the world
Blue - the renewal of the church

I had several interesting discussion about how this whole metaphor might be expanded and explored and it has rather planted a seed of an idea in my mind which I might well pursue.

In the short term I responded with this picture using just red yellow and blue - actually something of a challenge. I found not using any white very difficult I did manage some green orange and purple from the mix and wonder if those three primary colours lead to the three additional colours. Bihsop John spoke of Green being our own lives - perhaps as I understood it being built from the renewal through the Glory of God, Purple being a specific ministry of service (renewal and pain combined) perhaps a priestly one and orange being healing/ forgiveness (Glory of God and pain of the world combined).

These are certainly just germs of a further thought and the painting is not quite what I usually would end up with because of the restricted pallete (none of my trademark cerulean!!) and wonder what the place of WHITE might be in the palette. One of the vicar's questioned the absence of black as well. hmmm...

A thought in process...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

prayers like incense

I can't quite believe that I haven't blogged about this already but looking back it's not there and it hasn't been that long!

So I went to my artists group a couple of Mondays ago for the appraisal night (my first). The idea is that you bring a painting (or 2 it seems - I wasn't brave enough to take more than one out of the car!!) and then a professional artist appraises it and the group as a whole respond with helpful feedback.

I took along the Are we human or are we dancer canvas

Not unsurprisingly the feedback was almost universally positive for everyone so it was nowhere near as daunting as it might have been. Nonetheless, after about a month long hour my picture still hasn't been put up on the appraisal easel and the lovely mature lady next to me start pestering the man who was in charge of putting the pictures up to put up mine because "this young lady hasn't had her picture viewed yet" and some people were already on their second painting. Now the evening had consisted so far of many landscapes, some of them really superb, others in progress (that WAS brave) and others needing a little something to improve them. There were a few notable exceptions. I was personally struck particularly by the large canvas board with a picture of three HUGE red onions - we're talking the size of basketballs. It was very well done and yet one couldn't help but ask WHY? The same lady also presented a really endearing picture of a live chicken sitting in a basket. Now those of you that know my work from the blog may well have figured by now that, as happy as I am with my work, it certainly doesn't fall in the landscape or onions/chicken category! So I was actually getting increasingly nervous.

When they put my canvas (in reverse) on the easel the man putting it up raised his eyebrows and I squeezed the hand of the lovely lady next to me (who I had only met that evening!) When Giuliano turned the painting around to show to the assembled company there was a chorus of an intake of breath! I was trusting this was "in a good way" and then Giuliano went on to compliment the movement the colours and the composition, the smooth lines of the figure etc. What struck me most were two things he said which Michael keeps repeating to me:

"This is art"
"do some more".

People did seem genuinely positive about it and some were intrigued by the title and I had to try and explain the origin!

prayers like incense
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

I was mightily encouraged. Unfortunately it has then been a rather busy time until today when I was able to get back to the canvas I started a while ago and I think I have now finished though I may need to wait til morning to be sure!

This painting falls in with a group of others I'm thinking of pulling together for a collection but that is still a thought in process so more on that in the future.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inspiration at Work

A friend of mine put up a link to what looks like a VERY cool site for those in work. Workplace Inspired describes itself as:

"a Watford based group which exists to support local Christians at work. With networking events, great speakers, specialised teaching and prayer support we can help you to live out your faith at work. We have regular events, but we are also happy to visit your workplace if you ask us to. We also provide specialist services for Christians in business, including mentoring for any Christian in the business world. And if you have an idea about starting your own business, then check out the Kingdom Business School."

The website itself looks very cool and I think this is probably true of what WPI is going to be able to do for people too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Salt 'n' Light

Just finished making this video (somewhat belatedly due to vet visit with out older dog - we're getting results back from biopsies next week) for the youth event tomorrow.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Calm after the storm

So the whirlwind which is September is in full steam. All sorts of STUFF needing doing NOW and a big event this Saturday. All that with a new puppy in the house is certainly "interesting times". Two rays of sunshine from the LONG NOW that is Greenbelt 09 today though - a thank note from the venue manager of the Performance cafe and a mention of the Performance Cafe and our team on the blog of someone I met at GB this year.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bless you, Bless you

Ok so the song is still whirring round my head in a smiley way (somewhat needed in the frantic whirlwind that is the first day back!) so, for the rest of you here is Jim Moray's own video of the All of You Pretty Girls:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What A Performance!?

So this year at Greenbelt, I was volunteering for the first time (last year I did some bits on a stand but only really as a punter who was a bit helpful. This year I was official and fully equipped with volunteer wristband, courtesy showers, free teas, meal vouchers, arriving on Thursday, a GORGEOUS hi-vis jackets for certain times at our venue and the best of times with my team at the Performance Cafe. What more could a volunteer ask for than to be volunteering AND listen to some great live acts in a venue with scrummy food?

It did mean I didn't get to everything I might have done but I did get to Blessed's mass of the trinity (and persuade a few others to witness its special integrity and innovation) and to a youthwork practitioner's session with the beautiful Pip Wilson who was also a regular visitor to the Performance Cafe (clearly a Greenbelt Trustee of discernment!) The Sunday morning service was non-eucharistic but contained some powerful symbolism in the Hebrew/Arabic readings, the olive stones and olive oil and the stories and songs of a people divided in what is called a Holy Land. Made doubly special for me by sharing it with a new friend and a group of strangers. This new friend was part of our little village at the campsite, a friend of a friend drawn together by canvas and bacon butties! We had such a wonderful laughing time together and a little bop to the electronica of Royksopp. It was also a chance to catch up with all sorts of people including some of the young people from the diocese and some other DYOs - all this helped a little, perhaps, by my offer of muffins via facebook.

The Performance Cafe was such a lovely place to be with some great performers and a really lovely crew of volunteers (from our own team and from others drawn to us!) who really worked together well, I think, to make the venue a welcoming place where we got in all the people we could to see the performers. It was a really satisfying feeling to manage to squeeze another 20 people in who were desperate to see their favourite musicians. Highlights for me there were probably Yvonne Lyon (again- she's on itunes) and Gareth Davies-Jones (on itunes) and for a little more chilled out the smooth sounds of Jazzelation (sample here). Another bonus was Roger's (the venue manager) choice of interlude music including Jim Moray's All You Pretty Girls which is just so perky!

Curiously in all of it, a friend and I agreed that for both of us, the most spiritual experience came at the Comedy venue with Barbara Nice's Hiya and Higher. She encouraged us all not to worry about the Credit Munch, not to fall for the consumerist myth but to look to all that we, as human beings have in common. We shouldn't feel low but in meeting each other (and saying HIYA) we can feel HIGHER. The time concluded with the audience selecting a short length of wool to represent how low we felt at the start with all our worries then the audience, through its links, passed around the ball of wool and when many connections had been made, this wool was attached to some helium balloons that were released into the sky. So how low did we feel and how high do we feel now? Through building connections with those people we felt as high as heaven.

It's difficult to convey just how deep an experience this was and at the same time gloriously funny. There was not heavy over-politicised polemic but wonderful and glorious authenticity from a woman with such a big and beautiful heart!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sermon on Ephesians 4.25-5.2

Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I remember early on as I was preparing to get married, many people gave us all kinds of advice about married life. The one that stuck with me most clearly was drawn from the very passage we had from Ephesians this morning:
“do not let the sun go down on your anger,”
It’s good advice not to go to bed before sorting an argument out but I think letting the sun go down on your anger also means more than that. It means letting the anger become part of you without going away. It is a concept that has stood us well in our marriage over the past three years. There have of course been times when each of us have been frustrated with the other but I think it’s fair to say that we have dealt with disputes and differences pretty well and without resorting to a great deal of shouting or plate smashing. Yet this passage isn’t just about married couples but about community as a whole. Anger is allowable. Righteous anger at injustice is certainly something we are sometimes called to in our Christian witness but if that anger moves from the sin of the injustice to anger at the person who has done it then we ourselves enter into sin. Hence Jesus turning over the tables in the temple is an example of righteous anger but one of the disciples cutting of the ear of one of those who came to arrest Jesus is sinful anger.

What is there that really makes you angry?
child abuse?
MPs expenses?
Watching the England Cricket team go all out for 102?

I know for me, that sitting in my car I become much more angry than I do anywhere else. I tend to be the kind of person that lets people out of side roads in queuing traffic and gives way to bikes and pedestrians but every now and then I can get really angry when I’m driving. At people driving dangerously, selfishly or just plain badly. I also get angry when I see people mistreated. As someone who works for the church you might think that I work in the most perfect environment but I find myself filled with (what I consider) righteous anger When youthworkers phone me up to share troubles and woes and the way the vicar’s been treating them or young people tell me that they feel excluded by their church because they’re wearing jeans or a hat. Am I right to be angry? I think it depends on what I do with that anger. If the anger prompts me to right a wrong and encourage a repair to a broken community then yes. If it means I get wound up and shout at someone then perhaps not.

Anger can be a really transforming emotion. It can turn us into people we don’t want to be doing things that would normally be unheard of for us. If you think of the incredible hulk “don’t make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry” Bruce Banner changes into a giant green monster with little reasoning and a great deal of violent temper. Now I’m sure no-one here transforms THAT much when they’re angry but I think that story tells us a great deal about anger.

People disagree about how we deal with anger. Some say that having a good shout, a good rant, punching a cushion or even the wall lets them vent their anger while bottling it up can be poisonous and damaging. Others think that shouting just winds them up and makes it all worse while taking a step back, taking a breath and counting to ten works better.
So we can be angry and we can act upon that anger but only if we do not let the anger control us.
I would say that Paul is one of those who argues for soothing away anger and channelling it rather than acting upon it:
"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you."

Paul’s writing not just about anger of course but about modelling our lives according to Christ: Giving up anger means acting in a particular way; being forgiving of others, of the big things and the little things. Sometimes we are called upon to speak the truth about a situation and to help resolve it as St Paul wrote:

"So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another."

Yet that truth should only be spoken without malice or bitterness.
The truth can often be the thing that causes us to be angry. Very often the truth can be a cause of much contention – of division and of anger as much as lies. If my neighbour is going on a date and looks decidedly ridiculous in a bright purple dress and orange shoes and asks me if he looks nice – in telling the truth am I being kind?

It’s not just clear cut is it? It requires thought and reflection.

I think moments of truth and moments of anger might be perfect times for some theological reflection. Now this may sound heavy but it needn’t be. Theological reflection is merely thinking about where God is in an issue, where we are acting within what God would want and where we are going against that. It can be as simple as looking at the situation and asking WHERE IS GOD HERE? Or it can be looking at a situation and asking “WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THIS”

What does today’s passage say about it?:
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear”

Brutal honesty is not of the Gospel but words that build up the community and build up those around us can be powerful things. The little ways that we show our Christian faith to those around us can be the most powerful.

The diocese has just said farewell to Brenda who worked in our parsonages department. She was the first voice I heard on the telephone when I had accepted this job and a lovely warm welcoming voice she was. At her retirement party she told us all about how working in the office had been such a joy. This was due principally to what Mark, our diocesan surveyor (her boss) said at the end of every day EVERY DAY: Goodnight Brenda, have a good evening and thanks for all that you did today.

Every single day, Mark said those words of gratitude and encouragement to the person he worked alongside and what a difference they made to that community.
So this week, when that sense of anger starts to swell up in you, think of what St Paul says. And in each interaction with the people around you this week, think about what words might give grace to those who hear them for the building up of the community?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

1001 uses for a blog*

I can't begin to describe the sad excitement I experienced on finding this fabulous site.
Vicipaedia is a Latin wikipedia which works in the same way as the usual wikipedia. I may just have to brush up my Latin and write a few pages :o)

For example here is the page on Pliny the Younger and Virgil.

* This is the 1001st post so I thought I'd better get back to something faintly daft and totally Latin!

The history and future of chaplaincy

This morning I was introduced in the church where I was preaching as the Diocesan Youth Chaplain (rather than Officer). I rather liked the concept and it got me ruminating.

I've been a chaplain in my previous role both for a university as part of an ecumenical chaplaincy team and at a children's holiday camp where I was responsible for the well-being of teenage volunteers (some of whom were inclined to work full throttle for the first two days then end up keeled over by day three). Currently part of my role is a chaplaincy co-ordinator at one of our Church of England secondary schools.

When I started setting up the chaplaincy team at Wolverley we looked around for some good models of school chaplaincy. Most school chaplains seem to be those where there is either a full time or half time employed chaplain and I met with a man from the Bloxham Project that bring such chaplains together. However our model is one more akin to my experience of university chaplaincy - with a team of people who give a certain amount of time every week or every other week. This is a similar model to local FE chaplaincy, town centre or work based chaplaincy.

A while ago Bishop Alan blogged about the nature of a chaplain and I found his description quite profound:
"someone who learns and listens carefully to the languages people use to express themselves, a spiritual interpreter, someone who can hold the lines and ask key questions of any and all, including themselves"

I like that role of spiritual interpreter. I think it is a fantastic expression of what we so often do. In my role as a school chaplain I find I use a lot of youth work skills and I think they may well be equally applicable in other chaplaincy roles.

It ocurred to me when Jim referred to me as CHAPLAIN this morning that the very word itself is one we've sometimes considred revising - what does it mean after all? What do people think when you describe yourself as a chaplain?

Well with my history background I know full well where the term comes from and it's not as simple as you'd think. Yes is comes from the word chapel which is obviously a place of worship and of course the chaplain is the person who works in the chapel just as a chatelaine is someone who works at a chateau. Hang on a minute though... why is it a chapel not a church??? Well there were NO CHAPELS until after the foundation of a religious building deidcated to St Martin of Tours. Martin, a former soldier turned bishop, is one of the major saints in France and he was venerated through the precious relic which he left behind in the form of his capella. Story has it that while he was still a soldier Martin, on seeing a poor shivering man at the gates of the city of Amiens sliced his long military cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night in a dream he sees Christ wearing the cloak and as a result left the army. Now his cloak was called a capa and the half cloak (using the traditional diminuitive suffix of -ella) was a capella. The ecclesia built to venerate St Martin and house the relic of his cloak was called the capella sancti Martini. The first chapel.

This may all seem rather an aside but I think Martin's model is a fantastic one for chaplains:
  • To work from where you are
  • To see the need and respond in that moment
  • To use the tools that you have
  • To reflect upon that experience and see where Christ was IN that experience
  • To be willing to be CHANGED by the experience
I think there are other key characteristics/tips which serve a chaplain well.

The power of hello
There is nothing like a dining hall full of teenagers looking at you funny to fill you with trepidation. I know my team were certainly fairly daunted when the first started. What it takes is a nice gutsy and cheery "hello". The ice is broken and a conversation can ensue (or the group can look at you like you're an alien and move away slowly!). We had the chance to meet the new year 7s when they came iin for a trial week last term and spent a lot of time walking around and smiling and making ourselves. We will be KNOWN to this group before they even start.

I am with you always
Now chaplains can't always BE there but being known to be available and being VISIBLE is a vital part of the role. This might be via the scary tv screens displaying our cheery faces (along with the hockey team, the latest sceince trip etc) all around the school or via a room associated witht he chaplains, a web page, an email, a text service.

I am not a number
It's really important, in my view, that the chaplains be seen as separate from the structures of the school. It's a tough line to tread because, of course, we work alongside teachers and within the same building and guidelines but we are NOT TEACHERS. No-one owes us homework or decides if they get a C3 (or gets put in the cloud as it was in the primary school I worked with before!!) or a detention. If there are issues raised, we might need to share those with the school as pastoral issues that may need support nonetheless we still stand alongside the pupils rather than within the structures. We spend a lot of our time with pupils in non teaching time to emphasise this.

I am what I am
Young people may not agree with your beliefs as a Christian (or believe you can REALLY believe "all that") but they generally respect them. Being true to your own faith as a chaplain and being willing to EXPLAIN it to young people is vital. They are curious and want to know. I think the best question I've had lately was when we hosted the God Gazebo at the school summer festival. We set up a chill out space, offered young people a comparative tasting of fair trade and non fair trade chocolate, gave them a chance to suggest ideas for our forthcoming chaplaincy room and put up info about who we are and what we, as chaplains do and might do. Sitting on our VERY comfy giant bean bag, one lad asked me, "So, is that what Christianity's all about then, chilling out?" I grinned and replied that "as Christians we see the value of taking time out to be quiet and reflect and perhaps to pray, so yeah!"

Busy doing nothing
When I was a youthworker I used to joke about being paid to each pizza and watch films. Being a chaplain can seem, for our team, like being paid to eat canteen food (in some places I think you would HAVE to pay me!!). A lot of time being a chaplain might seem like it achieves little. What we do can be so unmeasurable. "All we did was..." We have had days when we've really not had great chats with young people beyond what lessons they had and whether they liked them or not but these are all vital steps along the relational journey. Being there in these times makes it possible to be there when it really matters.

I feel special
In addition to the regular hanging around time, it's good to have some special event or day to boost the profile of the chaplains and engage with a larger number of pupils. OUr God Gazebo at the festival was such a fantastic time meeting loads more pupils than usual. I think the 3.2kg of chocolate may have helped but that ran out half way through our time and we still had plent yof visitors. We're going to be using Breathe and an arts competition in the future.

Stairway to Heaven

It's important to allow relationships to develop at their own pace. Remember, you're probably not spending a great deal of time with each individual group so don't be surprised if they're not sharing their whole lives instantly. As your profile in the school improves, with each new person you might start from a slightly better position. We've stopped having to explain who we are now as our pictures are so often all over the place but we still have to build relationships with individuals.

Same difference
Young people are not all the same. There is no miracle question/topic with young people. There are certainly topics worth trying and open questions rather than closed questions are certainly more profitable in having a two way conversation. We often start with questions about how the day's been going or what subjects they've had. We even get on to television, sport and films but even with these topics, you can't guarentee that every young person watchs Big Brother/Britain's Got Talent/Football/Rugby/Harry Potter. So don't expect to get it right

Knowing me Knowing you
Remembering who you have spoken to and something you spoke about and hopefully their name makes a big difference. Saying "Hello again" rather than "hello" can take you that step further each time. Recalling what you chatted about before and asking how it went or whether they watched the next episode makes the young people aware that you actually care. Asking them by name is even better. A log book as a team might also help to keep a clear picture of who you've chatted to and maybe which year groups you need to reach out to more.

Come as you are
Chaplains can come alongside young people in the early stages and get to know them but to progress well, the dynamic needs a shift to young people coming to you as a chaplain. All of the above should make you someone who is approachable.

You'll never walk alone
Taking time out to reflect on how sessions have gone is important whether as a chaplaincy team activity or on your own. What went well? What could we do better? Where was Christ in our work today? What shall we do now to move forward? Having people supporting the chaplaincy with prayer is also a good plan. It invovles people and supports the work.

So I wasn't really intending to write so much but as it was post number 1000 I suppose it's fitting.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I was once again astounded by the awesomeness of young people today.

A 17yr old lad who was a Christian sadly lost his life in a tragic swimming accident this week. I had never met him but he had been to diocesan events in the past (before my time) and was known by at least one of our youth council who invited me to join the facebook group in his memory. From Monday to today the group grew to over 750 members with over 150 wall posts, a video and over 70 photos. They also organised their own commemoration today at places of significance to them. 80 confirmed they would attend and then today there were many more who came along. I got a few other adult Christian types to come along with me and we stood (somewhat awkwardly) at a reverent distance from a large number of young people who had decided their own way to mark this lad's death. There were flowers and candles, messages, exchanges of stories about the fun they'd had together and even some music - Blink 182 from a digital device & a few things on guitar.

We had tooled ourselves up with packs of tissues and passed through the crowd offering them where we thought they might be needed without intruding on what was very much THEIR time. There were times of quiet, times of chatter and even laughter and of course times of tears. I think my favourite moment was when one of them shouted "right everyone shut up a minute!" it was so much more direct than adult church would be and it worked. the quiet gave way to the sound of a guitar and some girls singing.

We as adults made it known we were there. Even though the young people clearly supported each other, I think my colleague put it right that our presence was still impotant.

We're offering a similar presence for young people at the funeral which is due to be at the cathedral. We're again offering copious supplies of tissues, some squash and a space for those who might find the funeral service too much or the too out of their usual experience.

I found myself reflecting on how I had tried to makes saggestions of Bible passages and offered a memory book and some bubbles for people to blow in commemoration to the young person I did know. When it got to the large group of young people it was so clearly for them to decide what they did. I took that step back. I don't know how much of what I offered they actually used and in a way it doesn't even matter. I think I would still offer the same in future but be equally happy for my suggestions to be recevied with thanks but left unused. Grieving is such a personal process and I think often all we can do is offer our presence with those in mourning.

These are the times when there is no need for words. Words in fact would be too much. Presence and the gentle offering of a tissue said so much more about the Gospel than a theological explanation of salvation could ever have done today. Perhaps that true in many situations.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

God Gazebo

God Gazebo 1
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
I finally got the four panels of the inside of the gazebo painted today. It's certainly a lot harder to get acrylic to go on to the plastic in a way which is appealing to the eye. I'm much happier with the last three panels I did than with the first when I was really just getting a feel of how the paint was moving.

Disappointingly the silver paint just looks grey so my plans for using silver and gold have changed.

I also need to work out whether I want to put something on the outside too. I might just write GOD GAZEBO on the outside of the segment I like least!!

I am on leave and my colleague told me off for doing this when I'm not working but it was FAR TOO MUCH FUN to count as work and I was able to take such a leisurely pace doing it. If I'd been doing WORK I'd have felt really guilty about taking so long as there are so many useful things I could be doing!!

Let me know what you think anyway.

In addition to the inside painting I'm working on some bead hangings and one of the pics shows M on the outdoor bean bag (covered for painting!!) which we've bought for it. There will also be some thought provoking things for the young people to look at - when we've thought what might be provoking!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Word became pasta

I was making some soup for supper today and had one of those cheesy non-holy but could have been holy if I was a little loopier moments.

I opened the mini alphabet pasta which I bought ages ago in Spain (the tiny stars having been finished) and in opening the packet four letters spilled out onto the work top.

The first letters to come out were an echo of creation...



Of course if I was Italian it might well have had a different "creation moment" as I created


which means woman!

Michael was suitably unimpressed but we did still look for messages in our soup (as I used to when I was a child!!) All I got was DOT and AXE...

I might just have to have a go at the PlayPaws Alphabet Spaghetti game tomorrow as I'm in the mood!!

Or you could go play with the alphabetti spaghetti word generator! - makes a change from scrabble on facebook and you get to choose your own letters !!

Sermon on Isaiah 6 - not the Trinity

I was preaching at St Mary's in Kidderminster on Sunday one the following passage:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
Isaiah 6:1-13

There was also a baptism so the sermon brief was to focus not on the Trinity (for Trinity Sunday) but on the reading and the baptism. So they had the following - or thereabouts. I've taken out the baby's name which I did use - just so you know I didn't call her "this baby" all the way through!!

What an amazing image of God in all his glory in this vision of Isaiah. This has been a journeying passage for me over the years -of mixed meanings – it has spoken to me in different ways throughout my life.

I really love the graphic description of the place. When I was a child this was especially true.

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke."

I really loved that image of the angels with all those wings and especially that great long robe spreading through the court. I was rather into stories of princesses with long dresses and I rather pictured that long road like the wonderful dresses in my Ladybird edition of Cinderella!
That really graphic image spoke to me very strongly when I was young.

Then when I was a little older and studying history, the thing that struck me about this passage was that, as much as it is a description of a vision, it was a vision located in TIME by the writer. “In the year that King Uzziah died.” According to most historic record that’s in 740 BC. This vision is not some vague story for any time. It’s a vision that a real person had at a particular time. It has a particular place in the story of God and of his creation.

In my life in ministry, that moment when Isaiah says “here I am, send me” has been significant many times. When I was thinking about changing careers from sensible history teaching for something as mad as youth work, I heard this passage. When I was welcomed into my new role as a youth minister, we had this passage. When I was thinking of moving jobs, leaving family and friends behind, this passage made me realise there would be some SENDING by God and that I was ready. “Here I am send me”

Does Isaiah sound ready though? That’s not where he starts and it’s not where I started with this passage. I’m sure it’s not where this baby starts her journey of faith with this passage either.
No Isaiah starts not as one ready but as one aware of God, aware of himself and prepared to change.
He knows he has seen God but he feels he’s the wrong kinda guy from the wrong kinda place. God however transforms him and turns his life around.
That’s what each of us today together with this baby and her family, seek to do in joining in this baby’s Baptism and re-living our own baptism.

We may think, like Isaiah that we’re not really ready or worthy but it’s that turning to God and showing a willingness to be changed by God that we begin our journey. It’s not a magic wand though, far from it, there will be things that draw us away from God as well as those that draw us to God.

It was also with some sadness that I learnt another way this passage had significance for me. someone who was brought up in the same church as me is not now someone who includes religion in his life. He and I were chatting a few years ago and he told me that this very passage was THE one that, as a young teenager, made him decide NOT to keep coming to church. Why? He told me that he thought if the angel needed tongs to pick up the hot coal then that made no sense of God being Almighty so he couldn’t be.

A pair of tongs was a stumbling block for him. There will always be stumbling blocks for all of us. Things which make us doubt, make us question. Question ourselves, question those we love, question the value of life, or the existence of God. Yet ours is a Gospel of stumbling but also of getting up again. Just like a child when she starts those first steps only to land back on the ground. this baby won’t stop there. She’ll get back up and try again and again. Jesus once told a man that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must become like little children and I think that was certainly one part of it – falling down but getting back up again and trying again and again. As we get old we sometimes feel more inclined to give up when it’s difficult but it’s never too late to start trying again.

And I still hope that my the young man I mentioned might do that in time. And the time I see the most hope for that has been since he became a father. His daughter is now two and I have seen such a transformation in his life. He sees the world in so many different ways.

Something so tiny as a baby, can change the world. This little child here can make us see things in a different way. Today we can look again at our own faith as we’ve shared in this baptism. You as parents must see things as people changed by this tiny form.

I think when we look at a young baby, and for parents, looking at your own children must be even more powerful, when we look at a young baby, we get a small tiny inkling of how God must feel looking at the world, at his creation, at each one of his little children.
We look with the eyes of love,
the eyes of hope,
the eyes of forgiveness of anything.
And I don’t know if you’re like me when I look at my own niece but I wonder just what she might achieve in this lifetime that is only just begun. Where might life take her?

And this is how God sees Isaiah in this vision. Full of Hope and Love and curiosity about what this beloved child will do. It’s how God looks at each one of us. God sees our failings and is ready to forgive them as he does Isaiah. God sees with the eyes of a loving parent, a hoping parent, an expectant parent.

Today we have offered this child to God’s care. To the potential of God’s call
To the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
We can’t know where God will send this baby yet. What her life may contain. But know for sure. God has hopes for her and hopes for all of us. His voice is there asking “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
That question is not just for Isaiah – it still rings out for each of us if we have the ears to hear it.
The question is
What is God’s will for you this week?
Where will God be at work in you this week?
Where and when will be your opportunity to say
“Here am I send me!”

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Making Hay while the sun shines

So it's raining in much of the country today but last week I was at the Hay on Wye Literary festival hearin Rowan Williams in conversation with A. N. Wilson on the subject of religion in literature, particularly Dostoyevsky about whom ++Rowan has just written a book which AN Wilson reviewed here. (The Guardian has reported on some of the session here) It was an inspiring discussion, an official ear-wigging on a conversation between two great thinkers, as my colleague put it. It was certainly interesting enough to prompt me to think about reading The Brothers Karamzov as my curate when I was 16 endeavoured to encourage me to do but which I have still never read. When I've finished my current book (Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - most illuminating mix of fact/fiction now recommended by Richard and Judy but I did spot it a while ago!!)

The words that struck me from the archbishop, aside from those on silence which the Guardian picked up were those of this question:-

"Is there something about the grain of the universe that obliges us to love?"
These words prompted me to the following:

++rowan 2
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lost sheep

I really liked this - unfortunately I don't seem to be able to download it but I can post it!

The Parable of the Lost Sheep from vanmmoocow on Vimeo.

Do you need a secret millionaire?

A long blog silence, for which apologies. I have got some pics to put up when I'm back on the laptop from - one of them a sketch inspired by hearing Archbishop Rowan Williams in conversation with A. N. Wilson at the Hay Festival last week - but before all that I thought I'd share the good news for local charities out there...

If you've seen the show the Secret Millionaire, you'll be familiar with the way that people have offered money to community groups within particular localities. The Big lottery Fund and Channel 4 have now launched a new joint fund called the Secret Millionaire fund:

"The Big Lottery Fund and The Secret Millionaire have teamed up to give viewers of the programme a chance to act on the charitable inspiration fuelled by the show. Lottery funding worth £1 million has been lined up for people to apply for, or nominate projects to apply for grants of between £300 and £10,000 from the Secret Millionaire Fund.

From here you can nominate or apply for The Secret Millionaire Fund.

  • nominate a community project.

    You can propose a community project or organisation you think would benefit from BIG funding. BIG will then contact the organisation to see if it is eligible to apply for this small grants scheme and send out the relevant information.
  • apply directly.

    If you have an idea for a project that can bring real improvements to the lives of communities, and can pass a simple eligibility test (see information below), you can apply to Secret Millionaire Fund.

In both cases Lottery grants are awarded following an application and asseesment process which takes up to 8 weeks. For more information see the link to the right.

If your application to The Secret Millionaire Fund is successful Channel 4 (or RDF Media the production company who make the programme) might choose you for filming that will appear on the Secret Millionaire website and possibly in future editions of The Secret Millionaire. You will be asked to opt in to this at the point of application. Accepting or declining will not affect the outcome of your application."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One Step Beyond

Ian and Alice have already put some stuff on the blogosphere about the DYO network conference. We had some painful discussions about some financial issues (in which we are not alone, I know) and some inspiring words from Chris Curtis, Peter Ball and Tony Cook among others, laughs, discussions, magic and even a coach trip with old fashioned commentary thanks to Nic!

I found myself in an even less word oriented reflective place than usual and took very few notes. I did however do some more Holy doodling and also had a discussion about just that with one of my fellow DYOs who is also a fellow doodler.

I very much appreciated the Eucharist with annointing which we concluded with and was WOWed by the creativity of young people which Chris presented us with.

dyos are
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

sea and sky
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

mission marks
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fingerprint on Every Soul

Instead of working further on the last painting I did (I wasn't sure if it was finished or not - I'm still not fully sure!!) I decided to do something that might complement it or partner it anyway. So again I took the lyrics of Human and focussed instead on the line" 'cos I'm on my knees looking for the answer." Intriguingly I also seem to have brought in a creed that we shared at our team meeting earlier in the year:

We have heard about you, God of all power.
You made the world out of kindness,
Creating order out of confusion;
You made each one of us in your own image;
Your fingerprint is on every soul.
So we praise you

We have heard about you, Jesus Christ:
The carpenter who left his tools and trade;
The poor man who made others rich;
The healer who let himself be wounded;
The criminal on whom the soldiers spat
Not knowing they were fouling the face of God;
So we praise you.

We have heard about you, Holy Spirit.
You broke the bonds of every race and nation,
To let God speak in every tongue;
You made disciples drunk with grace;
You converted souls and emptied pockets;
You showed how love made all things new
And opened the doors to change and freedom.
So we praise you.

Iona Community, Scotland

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Human/Dancer stage 2 2
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
This latest painting - which started off VERY differently was inspired by the words of the Killers song Human (se lyrics below). I particularly like the "cos I'm on my knees looking for the answer to are we human or are we dancer" which says a lot to me about prayer. We're all searching to understand who we are as humans and as people within society. Are we dancing to someone else's tune or by being a dancer are we being more free than mere humanity allows. I'm not entirely sure what the lyrics are about but I rather like the fact that I don't know!!

I started with one of those canvases which I love doing where I merge colours and created feathered joins between them. Then when that had dried I entended to add another layer of the same over the top but it ended up quite different! The layer I added over the top I then scraped away to give a kind of washed over effect and that which I scraped away then got moulded together to make the dancer. I then thought I might change the background a little to show some of that movement and changed it completely or rather added yet a third layer. I'm still pondering whether I want any more figures in the picture or if I want to add some colour to the figure. I never intended her to remain green as it didn't look right but it's growing on me!! Michael, when he first saw it used the word impressive which is still making me grin with a little touch of pride. He doesn't always like what I paint (which is reassuring because then I know he means it when he does!) and impressive is a pretty encouraging word.

I did my best to notice
when the call came down the line
up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind
and sometimes I get nervous
when I see an open door

close your eyes, clear your heart

cut the cord
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer

pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well

you gotta let me go
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer

will your system be alright
when you dream of home tonight
there is no message were receiving
let me know is your heart still beating

are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer

you’ve gotta let me know
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human
or are we dancer

are we human or are we dancer
are we human or are we dancer

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Creativity

Long (but great!) day yesterday hosting Breathe at a Youth event in the south of the diocese. Some really good reactions to it which is always pleasing. To relax I've been a bit creative too firstly by beginning a new painting (not sure where it's going yet but about to hit it again in a sec!).

I also crafte this rather lovely dish of scallops with spaghetti for lunch - scrumptious though I say so myself. I'm very fond of scallops but they're a bit of a luxury. Fortunately they're one of the few items of seafood Michael will eat so we both enjoyed this. It's always fun creating a "new" dish - a bit like being in Hell's Kitchen this week! Still wouldn't want to be there though :o)

Spring Spaghetti
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Friday, April 24, 2009

God our father

A friend of mine posted a link to this video on her facebook. It is just amazing (It comes with a tissue warning).

Being me I couldn't leave it just at the video but I've looked into it a bit.
Team Hoyt haven't just done this triathlon but are in fact 6 off from doing 1000 events and speaking to corporate events for massive companies such as Morgan Stanley, GlaxoSmithKline, Google and American Express .

Father and son team Dick and Rick Hoyt don't restrict themselves to these achievements either. Rick is a graduate of Boston University and Dick is a retired lieutenant colonel in the air nation guard and a friend of the "President's Council for Fitness. They also front the Hoyt foundation which seeks:

"to integrate the physically challenged into everyday life. One way to accomplish this is to educate the able-bodied, making them more aware of the issues that the disabled face every day. Another is by actively helping the disabled to participate in activities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them."

I am deeply impressed. I think the word CAN'T just lost its meaning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ethos Narratives

I'm off to one of our local YMCAs today where I'm helping their CEO engage with the residents there on the issue of the Christian ethos of their organisation locally. The question of how big the C is in YMCA seems to be a matter of debate in many YMCAs and the outworking of their Christian service comes across in many different ways around the country. They do have very clear Christian underpinnings in the form of the Paris basis, the Kampala Principles and Challenge 21 but the question was about exploring that in our local setting.

When we were looking at how we might engage with the issue of stating our ethos, I came up with this idea (no idea if it's original as I don't read widely enough to be sure!!) of using Ethos Narratives.

Rather than saying just as Christians we believe all people are equal (Galatians 3.28 et al) and so we have an equal opportunities policy etc., etc. I suggested that we chose for ourselves various stories from Jesus' teachings - mostly parables as it turns out - which say something of how we work and why we work; which tell the story of our ethos rather than theologising it out. If it works, the idea will be that we can then use posters, videos, modern translations, sculptures, artwork, songs which tell these stories to help those who provide and use our services understand what it is we're about.

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about this. Is it new or I have I subconsciously borrowed the idea from somewhere!!??

Sermon on Thomas

Last Sunday I was at St Peter's Pedmore and I preached on the appearance of Christ to Thomas:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:19-31
I focussed on the idea of seeing is believing, picking up on the idea of there being many things we see which are not true (the amazing things peopel can do with airbrusing photos and film) and things which we can't see but which we know are true - electricity, magnetism, dark matter etc.

I got the congregation making windmills out of pipe cleaners, some beads and a little template I knocked up which had the words "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" on. I said that people can't have God proven to them and they can't see God but they can see God working through people if people allow the Holy Spirit to move them. I challenged them therefore to be like the windmill - to be a visible sign of God working in the world.

One of the funny things about preaching is that often you come out with something in the middle of a sermon which you hadn't been expecting to say. I had that on Sunday. I had a teeny idea about covering the fact that many people have doubts but I took up the theme of contrasting this with the coomunity of faith. I said that we gather in such communities so that they are always communities of faith. Even if we have our own doubts that day, the community of faith still has faith and so we are still within that community of the faithful. I assured the people that ALL CHRISTIANS have doubts at some point, using the example of Mother Theresa and this wonderful quotation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the revelation that Mother Theresa had doubts:

“Mother Teresa wonderfully was no plaster cast saint. She has helped to affirm many who are passing through this period of desolation and dryness when God seems so remote. St Theresa of Avila after one such bout cried out in frustration to God, ’No wonder your friends are so few given how you treat them!’ My regard for Mother Teresa has been enhanced. Doubt can be an integral part of faith, when the evidence is never so overwhelming, so incontrovertible. St Thomas is our patron Saint for doubters. We live by faith not by sight and frequently the evidence does not make the leap of faith redundant.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rain and Snow final version

Here at last is the painting I blogged about before which I finally finished at the weekend.
It's inspired by this passage:
"As the rain and snow come down from above and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth seed for sowing and bread to eat, so is my word that goes forth from my mouth. It will not return to me fruitless, but will accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the task I gave it."
Isaiah 55.10-11

It's not really like any other painting I've done before in style. It's also the same size as the last painting I did which I still love. I'm a little undecided about this painting. I know it's done and as it should be but I'm not sure I particularly like it. Does it show what I wanted it to show - almost perhaps but I can't say for sure it does the whole thing. I rather like the way the text can be read as it is but also with the paired verses alongside each other that compares rain/snow with word.

Not quite sure where it's going to go as yet!

So uncertainty all round. Apt for Holy Week perhaps...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Who do you love?

The fantastic we love our youthworker charter has now launched. There are lots of resources including the wonderful Dave Walker's cartoons especially commisioned for the charter.

If you are part of a church which employs a youthworker, check out their 7 point charter:

We will pray and support
We believe that our youth worker needs spiritual support in their work with young people.

We promise to pray for our youth worker and keep their needs a high priority in the church’s prayer life.

We will give space for retreat and reflection
We believe that taking time to think and pray is just as essential for our youth worker as organising events and meeting young people.

We promise to encourage our youth worker to use part of their schedule to give space for retreat, reflection and personal development.

We will provide ongoing training and development
We believe that learning the skills of youth work is an ongoing process and that it’s important to continually invest in professional development.

We promise to set aside time and money to provide this for our youth worker.

We will give a full day of rest each week
We believe that taking regular time off helps maintain our youth worker’s passion and energy for their work with young people.

We promise to actively encourage our youth worker to take a day away from their role each week to do something different.

We will share responsibility
We believe that having a youth worker does not release the rest of the church from our responsibilities towards young people.

We promise to encourage everyone to play a part in volunteering, praying for or supporting young people.

We will strive to be an excellent employer
We believe that it’s important to have clear structures and procedures for recruiting and employing a youth worker, and to provide supportive management structures.

We promise to follow good practice guidelines in the way we employ our youth worker.

We will celebrate and appreciate
We believe it’s vital to acknowledge what our youth worker is doing and the commitment they have made to work with young people in our church.

We promise to make sure our youth worker knows they are appreciated and we will celebrate their achievements.

I'm so pleased to see that this is finally here. All churches employing youthworkers wiull get so much more out of their youthworkers by following this.

I can almost hear my blog readers asking - what about we love our vicar/organist/sunday school teacher/curate/flower arranger/verger/chorister/warden/deacon/cleaner/worship leader/house group leader/children's worker/steward/lay reader/evangelist*?

Well perhaps this should spur us on to look at all those whom churches employ and all those who give their time for free.
*delete as applicable

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Firepit Fine dining

Michael and I lit up the firepit for the first time this year tonight. I decided that I was a little bored with what I normally do on the fire pit (jacket spuds in the ashes, garlic mushrooms in foil and roast pork with apples/cider). So this evening we ventured into oriental territory and had the following:

Red cooked Roast Pork
Marinade a pork roasting joint in 4tbsps soy sauce, 2 tbsps brown sugar, 4 tbsps sherry, 1 tbsp chinese five spice, 1tbsp sesame oil, 2 inches ginger finely chopped, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped 4tbps rapeseed oil and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. After marinading, place the pork in a foil tray and pour over the marinade. Wrap all this in two layers of foil and place on the embers of the firepit for 2 hours.

Coconut noodle soup
thinly slice 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 1 onion, 2 spring onions, 1 inch ginger, 1 radish, 1 green chilli, 2 large mushrooms. Heat oil in the pan (you can start this indoors if it's easier!) Add all the chopped veg and sweat for a few minutes. Add 1 tsp lemon grass, 1 tbsp bouillon powder, a dash of oyster sauce, a tsp of miso paste, a dash of mushroom ketchup, a dash of soy sauce and stir. Then had a carton of coconut cream, a pint of water and a tbsp of sesame oil the juice of one lime, a slug of sake and one whole bird eye chilli (optional!). Bring to simmering point. Transfer to the firepit and, when the pork is nearly ready, bring it to the boil. Add two portions of wholewheat noodles and simmer for three minutes (or as per instructions).

Serve in bowls with a couple of big ladels of noodle soup topped with a fresh slice of red cooked pork.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Michael and I are quite bad at eating up bread. Personally once it gets a bit stale I don't like it anymore. I love FRESH bread. So we often end up with the end of a loaf sitting waiting for someone to eat it. I sometimes make breadcrumbs or bread and butter pudding but once we've have b&b pudding once we seem reluctant to have it again the next night. So... what to do?

Well I have a husband who is fairly well guaranteed to eat anything chocolatey and I know bread pudding (rather than bread and butter pudding) keeps well but have never made it. Is there such as thing as chocolate bread pudding? Well despite a few recipes claiming to be just that they seem to be b&b pudding with rich cream and chocolate (whereas I was hoping to use milk and cocoa!)

In the end I found a Cranks recipe for bread pudding and adapted it as follows:

8oz (225g) Stale bread hacked into small pieces
1/2 pint (284ml) plus an extra 4tbsp (60ml) milk
3/4 cup of cocoa
1/4 cup boiling water
5oz (125g) Dried fruit - whatever you like but adding something like apricots to the usual raisins is cool
2oz (50g) grated butter
4oz (100g) Brown sugar
1 heaped tbsp (20ml) mixed spice
1 egg
nutmeg to grate

Put the cocoa in a small bowl (or large mug!!) and add the boiling water, stirring to a smooth paste. When it is smooth, gradually add in the 1/2 pint (284ml) milk.

Put the broken bread in a large bowl and add the chocolate milk mixture. Stir thoroughly. Leave to soak for 30mins at least, and give it the occasional stir. The longer you leave this the better really!

Put the oven on at Gas Mark 4 (180C/350F)

Add the fruit, grated butter, spice and sugar to the large bowl. In a small bowl (the same one again if you like!) whisk the egg with the 4tbsp (60ml) milk. Add this to the laqrge bowl and mix.

Press it all into a shallow oven proof dish (we use one of those funky teflon flexible ones so no need for lining paper) Put this in the oven for 45 mins until set. Then remove from the oven, slice and have at least one piece for yourself then put the rest on a plate or in a tin to eat later!!