loving feedback

March 21st, 2019

Last month, we sent 650 Valentine’s cards in one of our most precious #LOVED initiatives yet. Because after months – and years – of praying for our MPs, most especially with all the pressure they are currently facing, we wanted to affirm and encourage them all directly with words of love. (You can read more about what we did here.) We made it clear they didn’t need to respond – but of course some of them kindly did…

The hand-written note pictured above was especially thoughtful, given we hadn’t supplied our postal address, and extra effort had clearly been taken to research it as well as to write. But so were the many email responses we receive from MPs themselves, their parlimentary assistants, and even – in one case – from a very busy cabinet member.

It was of course really encouraging to hear back from people – to know all the cards and letters had been received. And more importantly still, to know they had clearly been received well and in the way we had hoped they would be.

Whilst it was wonderful to hear so many people talk of how much the messages had encouraged them, and to hear fun stories like the one where an assistant had whatsapped photos into the debating chamber so her MP would see them on the day. It was also heart-breaking to hear how rarely encouragement and affirmation are received by people bearing such responsibility generally – and especially in the current context of Brexit and all its surrounding implications.

It was even more disturbing to receive how much abuse is received. And to have a number of parlimentary assistants in particular talk about how they try and shield the MPs they work for from the worst of it, but have to read it all themselves – and how distessing they find this.

All this underlined the humanity of the people behind the walls of the iconic Houses of Parliament. As did the warmth and personable tone of many of the responses, and even the gentle joking from one MP about it ensuring he did actually receive a Valentine’s.

So what are we left with after all this? Certainly a deep sense of how special, wothwhile and important it was to respond to that nudge from God and do what we did. And even more so a great amount of thankfulness that we didn’t miss that chance, or dismiss it for whatever reason.

But most of all, a greater love for our MPs and their teams than we had even when we wrote to them. And a greater determination to grow still more in prayers, words and actions of love for them – whatever comes.

loving the UK’s leaders

February 14th, 2019

For the last few weeks, our team have been crafting and preparing a special Valentine’s gift mailing to tell each one of 650 of our MPs individually the vitally important message that they are LOVED…

Here’s a picture of them all at the final check and count before they went in the post. We had to drive some distance from our base in Nidderdale to find a post-box big enough to fit them all in!

Each one received a personally addressed and signed letter and gift postcard, with the LOVED graphic above on the front, and the following text on the back:

What inspired us to do this?

Well there are two answers to that. The first is, of course, LOVE! But the second, is what fueled and grew that love – prayer.

You see because our daily prayer rhythm is outward focused, we are praying for the UK’s leaders very often. And of course, even more often than usual at the moment.

And it’s this frequent and extended prayer, and the trying to imagine ourselves in their shoes involved with that, which keeps reminding us that our leaders are so much more than the two dimensional public roles they hold, or the way they are talked about in the press, social media or conversation…

They are real people. Three dimensional people with back-stories, personal lives, pressures and emotions. Individuals deeply loved by God.

And the more we have prayed, the more we have realised this, and grown in concern for them. So much so, that we prayerfully reached a point where we felt we needed to show that love to them directly. Hence sending them true, loving and affirming words that recognise so much of what is overlooked when they are talked about in a way that is just two dimensional.

What are we hoping will happen as a result of sharing the message that they are LOVED with them?

Mostly, to be honest, just that each recipient will receive our words in the way they are meant, and actually feel loved through them. But perhaps, also, that the atmosphere in the Houses of Parliament might even be positively affected as they do.

Knowing we are seen, valued and appreciated – getting the sense that we are understood and loved even when we don’t manage to be perfect – is so powerful.

It is the starting point for three vital things we need as we face the kind of incredibly difficult and challenging situations the UK and its leaders are facing at this time.

The first is the relief of freeing perspective.

Ultimately, though we are called to serve and give everything we can to build with justice, compassion and love, ultimately the responsibility for the future is not in our hands, but in God’s. Whether those we have written to share our belief or not, we want to remind them – this is not all on them!

The second is hope.

No matter what happens, there are always fresh opportunities to return to the foundational principles of love, justice and compassion for all that this world was designed to run best on, and we are all made to build best with. And this mean, there is always a way to turn things around to align with a way forward that can bring transformation for everyone.

The third is courage.

Because what a difference it makes to remember that every person in this nation, and every nation – including each of our MPs – is of indescribable value to God.

To wildly paraphrase Jesus’ beautiful words in Matthew 6:26… if even just one of the sparrows who cheekily nests in the Victoria Tower, or perches anywhere else on the Houses of Parliament – is seen and deeply valued, how much more so are those who lead our nation?

As we’ve been praying for our leaders again yesterday and today, and particularly that they would be truly encouraged as they receive our messages to them, we’ve found some of the lyrics from the song For the one by Brian and Jenn Johnson particularly, and newly resonant:

‘Oh how you love us,
from the homeless to the famous and in between,
cos you formed us,
you made us carefully,
cos in the end, we’re all you’re children.
So help me to love with open arms like you do,
a love that erases all the lines and sees the truth…’

new year, new resources

January 24th, 2019

We’ve been busy writing up some really helpful new creative prayer idea and practical input resources this month. Here’s a little overview of new resources on the site…

Like many people in the UK, our hearts and minds are very much preoccupied what’s happening in Westminster at present. But our focus is always on growing in the practice of praying for our leaders with love. So we’re delighted to share these creative prayer ideas: for interceding for Jesus-shaped leadership in government which come out of a week of prayer our dispersed community of pray-ers had on this theme during Parliament Week in November.

But we know we need to be growing in love for the church, as well as those beyond its walls… and that’s the inspiration behind the beautifully celebratory creative prayer idea for celebrating the whole church family tree

Unity, love and celebration are all strong themes in the new practical input resource we’ve created to help small groups and congregations think, own and pray more about their dispersed witness in mission, as well as their gathered one. The practical and flexible ideas it contain help with creating a map of your church’s scattered engagement with the world – and then encouraging ongoing prayer and support around this.

We hope and pray all three of these resources will be helpful envisioning tools at the start of the year, as well as throughout it.


a prayer about Brexit

November 27th, 2018

During UK Parliament Week earlier this month, our daily prayer rhythm spent five days focusing on different aspects of praying for Jesus shaped leadership in government. The daily emails that resourced this were incredibly helpful, so we’re in the process of adapting them into an ongoing resource. But we didn’t want to wait to share this simple, but particularly timely, prayer with which they finished…

However we each voted in the EU referendum, and whatever we think about the Brexit process, can we simply all pray together on this, united as one:

Lord Jesus,
flood all our conversations and prayers
around Brexit with your light and love.
Give us kindness for those who disagree with us
and gentleness towards all those who are leading us,
whatever we think about how they are doing this.
We dare to keep asking you together
for your wisdom, courage and humility to lead
the UK, Ireland and the EU forward from here.
And we declare, to our hearts, and the world, again,
it is you and you alone Lord Jesus
– not any other solution, government or institution –
in who we place all our hope for our future,
Amen.

liturgy for now and not yet

November 2nd, 2018

Our daily prayer rhythm includes a different characteristic every day. Alongside scripture, this leads the focus of our worship and – very often – shapes how, or even what, we intercede for that day too. We’ve found this approach to be rich and transformational, magnifying our God ever more as we follow it day by day. But of course some of the characteristics are more straightforward to respond to than others. And sometimes the trickiest ones are surprising because they take us right into the prayed and lived tension of the now and not yet of the kingdom…

Friday’s characteristic  was one of these. A real wrestle when we started honestly responding to God in worship and intercession with it. This characteristic was our God is our Healer (Jehovah Rapha)

The thing is there are widely different views and emphases held in the church about healing, and our own personal experiences can be so formative that it can be difficult for each of us to see past them to what scripture sets out about how, to what extent, and when, our God heals.

But it’s important isn’t it, that we root ourselves in the truth of who God is, else we quickly start to come unstuck as we offer up situations breaking our hearts, or simply come face to face with our own disappointments.

So in Friday’s worship we decided to go step by step; to tread carefully, thanking him truth by truth with some shared liturgy, in the dear hope that as we prayed this together, we would see our HEALER more clearly, and experience more freedom, joy and praise in our worship of him for being this both in the essence of who he is, and in his relationship with us and the world he so completely loves.

We found it really helpful, and freeing and – as it plays so centrally into the now and not yet of interceding for situations of brokenness and suffering – thought we would share it with you as a resource for wider worship and prayer too:

Thank you God that you are both our HEALER and completely for our healing
Thank you that you made us.
Thank you that you value us more than anyone else does – that you knit us together in our mothers’ wombs and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Thank you that you know how we work, how we get broken, and how to re-construct and repair us – and that you want to do this however we got to where we are now.
Thank you that you long for our full healing, wholeness and flourishing so much more than we do.
Thank you that you are always generous to the point of being lavish with your care.
Thank you for sending Jesus – whose life and death demonstrated your passionate desire to see us healed and restored.

Thank you God that you do heal – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – both directly, and indirectly in this life, and still today.
Thank you for all the examples in scripture – Old and New testament both, but especially in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit’s work through the early church – of you healing body, mind, soul and spirit.
Thank you for all our experiences of your healing touch in our own lives, in the lives of others around us, or through the testimonies we have heard resound from both the global and historic church.
Thank you for the Holy Spirit in us and with us, and the supernatural gift of healing whenever and wherever you, our HEALER, wisely and lovingly choose to give it in this life.
Thank you for all the natural healing resources you laid in place on the earth, and in people, to help bring transformation, ease pain and suffering, and re-train the body, mind, soul and spirit through doctors, medicines and wholesome therapies.

Thank you God that you are making, and will make, all things new, in your perfect time.
Thank you that we neither need to cling on to any particular specific healing having to come in this life. Nor do we have to give up on expecting that it might. Neither, most of all, do we have to be resigned to living with it forever – for you do heal in part today, and one day those who follow you will all experience full and complete healing.
Thank you that our ultimate hope of healing is in you yourself, in our restored relationship with you, and in eternity; and that it is absolutely, completely unshakeable because of this.

Thank you God that you never change, and that you never break your promises about healing, or anything else.
Thank you that Jesus’ ministry on earth is totally consistent with who you are now – you physically healed/heal many, but not all who were/are alive, and none who experienced/experience your miracle healing lived/live forever in this life.
Thank you that the counsel of your living word makes it clear that some of our healing – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – comes in the now, and some in the not yet, of the kingdom.Thank you for both.
Thank you that your offer of full healing in eternity, and some healing now, is open to everyone – even though the latter looks very different in different people’s lives as you work on different things, in a different order for all of us, in pursuit of the same aim for all of us – that we would respond to you, and grow up in you.
Thank you that you never make promises you don’t keep; never speak empty words that don’t have substance; and never raise and dash our hopes.
Thank you that you are endlessly merciful with our tendency to get confused about what you have and haven’t said, to give up on your promises, or to hold you to ransom over words that were never really yours or which we misinterpreted somehow.

And so God, our HEALER, we ask you…
Come now, and heal our expectations and perspective of you as HEALER so we might love and worship you more truly, and more fully for who you are, what you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do.
Restore our vision and hope where we have lost them; redirect our vision and hope where we have misdirected them; re-form and recapture our hearts and lives to be set above all on you, and on eternity,
in your name – Jehovah Rapha – and for your glory,
Amen.

praying for protection and breakthrough

October 23rd, 2018

We’ve just published a new creative idea in our worship resource library, designed to help with praying for protection and breakthrough – sometimes the simplest symbols can be the most helpful…

intercession inspired by God’s character

September 26th, 2018

We’ve just published a newly updated and extended resource: creative prayer ideas for intercession inspired by God’s character.

Our prayer rhythm’s daily characteristic of God in focus is highly formative for us. And all these ideas started as live worship within it first. So it’s wonderful to be able to share just some of that richness with you in this collection of creative prayer ideas.

You can use the ideas individually, in small groups, or adapt them to use in services, or as part of prayer stations.

 

two trees to re-envision

September 20th, 2018

We’ve just published a new pair of meditative poems. Use Two trees in prayer and reflection to inspire fresh vision during times of season change, transition and new beginnings.

Two trees (I)

Two trees
have captivated
this still widening heart;
two trees
blossom vision
for an oak set apart.

One tree
bore its choicest fruit
when dead wood on a hill;
the other
lives by life’s river
and gives healing leaves still.

The first
beckons me humbly;
redefine what is treasure.
The last
says ”what the first won
is for all and is forever”.

Both trees
draw up my gaze
to adore the One I seek;
both trees
move all my strength
towards nations and the least.

Two trees
have come to stand
for everything I know:
Love
gives its life away –
and in love I long to grow.


Two trees (II)

Two trees
stand before me
each and every hour;
two trees
speak constant choice
between surrender and power.

One tree
silently signs
‘Wait, drink deep through planted roots’.
The other
usually clamours
‘Be the gardener – pick your own fruits’.

The first
stands steadfast strong
budding slow but constantly;
the last
has a quicker crop
but always drops deciduous leaves.

Surrendered growth
is my dearest dream
but still sometimes I seize
control’s tree’s
ripe temptation
to do right now just as I please.

Two trees
are here again
depicting both my choices;
Stream-side tree,
please lead this oak –
out-blossom your rival’s loud voices.

wild worship field guide

July 31st, 2018

We’ve just uploaded a brilliant new creative prayer idea to our website; perfect for summer and holidays. Download our wild worship field guide now or read on to find out more about what’s inspired it and how it works…

What’s inspired this resource?

Most of Jesus’ teaching was conducted outside… on hillsides, next to lakes, in boats; he filled it with metaphors, pictures and stories about the landscape around the people he was speaking too.

And Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20 are just two of the scriptures that re-enforce this reality of creation’s ability to communicate who God is and to help us connect with him and learn more about how to relate to him.

But sometimes we end up losing the richness of the connection between creation and worship… perhaps we enjoy being outside but don’t find it naturally prompts worship; or perhaps, in mostly thinking about scripture’s rich natural metaphors when we are inside buildings, we miss the real depth of revelation they have to offer.

Being based in the Yorkshire Dales, many of the Sanctuary’s team feel like we’ve come to a new understanding of scripture because of living in such close connection to so many metaphors used in it.

And we’ve found our prayer rhythm’s occasional wild worship times have made both creation – and scripture – come alive more; leading us into deeper worship full of wonder and joy.

We’ve also found they have further increased our commitment to creation care and good stewardship from the inside out; the more we love, wonder and connect to God through his creation, the more natural it becomes to take better care of it!

We wanted to share a taste of this approach we’ve found so helpful, so we’ve created this field guide; a fun, interactive way, to explore worshipping in the wild!

How does the field guide work?

You can:

  • use it individually, or as a group or family;
  • use it in the garden, or on walks in the countryside;
  • take it out with you on a specific trip or holiday, or keep it close to hand and tick off things as you discover them over a longer period of time; using each one as a gateway to prayer or praise.

The different elements for you to find outside vary from easy to hard; and of course, in a number of cases will only be visible in some seasons, but they’re all alphabetised like a glossary… so you can choose whether you find things and check the glossary… or use the glossary for inspiration of what to look for.

But however you choose to use the field guide, you’ll find reading the scriptures and reflections while actually looking, touching, hearing or smelling the element of creation they focus on, makes them powerfully memorable… don’t rush each one though, spend time thinking about different meanings, and asking God to show you more.

If you are using it on one specific occasion, you might like to prepare for your outing using the special prayer we’ve included (also copied below)… and/or use some of the reflection questions at the end of the resource, after you’ve come back:

A wild worshipper’s prayer

God of the wild and wonderful –
of arcing skies and miniscule, jewelled wings –
set my worship free to explore beyond these walls.
Re-ignite me, excite me and creatively delight me
as your word comes newly alive
through the colourful witness of your world.
Re-tune my senses, sharpen my mind
and quicken my spirit to your presence
as I look, hear, smell, touch and taste more of your goodness
and lead me out into greater adventures
of discovering you and caring for all you have made.

(If you’re interested in more resources like this, take a look at our God revealed in creation prayer walk)

new artwork for sparrow song

June 29th, 2018

We’re delighted to be able to share a sneak peak of the new artwork we’ve been developing for creative outreach ministry, sparrow song… bringing together the talents of artist Alison Helliwell-Hodson, calligrapher Hilary Kemp and graphic designer Verity Moon:

Watch this space for news and updates that will be coming soon about on sparrow song, who are in the process of re-launching with a new emphasis, post the Sanctuary’s relocation and one of their members’ maternity leave.