we’re taking flight

July 24th, 2017

The Sanctuary’s time being based at our first physical home – 6 Church Street, Ilkley – is coming to an end, following us giving twelve months notice to leave the space this time last year. We’ll be taking flight on 31 August as another step towards creating a new base of our own and adjusting our current, public access model. And so we’re using these last few weeks of having our shop-front windows onto the A65 to begin sharing thank yous and goodbyes for the five years of generous hospitality given to us by All Saints Church…

To do this, we’ve brought together elements from two previous windows – created for Yorkshire Day 2015 and New Year 2016 – featuring the work of our two most talented artists – Alison Hodson and Barbara Macnish.

What better to say what we want to over this year’s Yorkshire Day (1 August) and as we prepare to enter another new season on the Sanctuary’s journey.

The text on the window reads:

“We’re taking flight!

We’ve loved sharing our prayers and creations with you through this space.

Thank you for having us All Saints Church! And goodbye and God bless to all our neighbours and passers by.”

It is then signed by the principal members of ‘team window’ – Jill, Liz, Alison and Barbara – on behalf of everyone at the Sanctuary.

It’s accompanied in our other window, by another goose and the following information, expressing our desire to say three things to every one local to our first base:

Thank you to:

  • All Saints Church for giving us rent-free use of this building for five years. 6 Church Street has been a huge blessing to us – and countless others – because of many of your members’ great generosity. We pray that everything that happens in this space after we leave – and your forthcoming wider building project – will continue to bless many people with the greatest gift we all have to share. Though we are of course deeply sad that your future plans no longer involve us, we remain deeply grateful for all you have given us.
  • everyone who has smiled at our windows, joined us to pray, got involved with our work, given us money, time, resources or talent or prayed for us during our time here.
  • our brilliant God – for his unchanging, unqualified and unequaled love and generosity.

See you soon!

We’ll still be based locally and so you’ll still see us out and about in Ilkley – and other towns and cities in the area – with our creative work. But we’re changing our model, as well as our address. So this is still a goodbye in terms of us having a constant high street presence.

(Although our prayer, resourcing and creative work aren’t changing, we’re no longer going to be offering public access to them all. Instead, we’re planning to build a small, studio base of our own at one of our members’ houses where we can all gather and work out of.)

God bless

Ilkley – we’ve loved sharing our creations with you and praying for you every day from this space. We’re going to miss being a part of your every day life but we’ll still be praying for you and sharing things with you. God bless the whole of you – every person and every inch – with a deeper knowledge of Jesus’ presence, which will never leave or forsake you.

We’re planning to work with landlords and councils going forward to make use of multiple, empty shop-fronts so this isn’t the end of our window work – but for this last of our first windows, the main team of creatives involved all got together to celebrate the journey of the last five years and raise a toast to the glass that has helped train them in this art of communicating the gospel in beautifully transparent ways:

 

the little clay bird is flying far and wide!

July 7th, 2017

It’s been wonderful to see scores of copies of The Little Clay Bird flying out from our window-dispenser since we put up our final story window at 6 Church Street a couple of weeks ago. And we’re hoping this brilliant coverage in the local paper will spread the word – and the story – even further!

entering our bigger story

July 4th, 2017

During July, we’re spending the majority of our morning worship rhythms setting our own stories – and the Sanctuary’s story – within the bigger story we live in: God’s. One of our principal tools for this, and for inspiring the reflective discussion questions and prayer foci we’re using for it, is the album  Music inspired by the story. It explores key biblical characters’ inner motivations and sacrifices of praise in songs that feel  like both unique-to-the-character dramatic monologues and worship we could all sing.

Each day, we’re taking a different track and responding to it, the wider biblical narrative it brings to life and how it speaks into our individual lives and callings, the people and situations on our heart to pray for and the season of the transition the Sanctuary is currently in as we prepare to leave our current premises next month.

We’re also creating a growing prayer installation with symbols for each story’s message on it…


We’re just two days in and it’s been so powerful, we wanted to invite you in too!

Obviously the main stimulus for this is the music and lyrics which aren’t ours to publish, but if you’d like to join us – and we highly recommend you do – order the CD/mp3 download and use a track a day yourself in prayer… exploring what each part of the larger story speaks into your own and your intercession for others’.

Again we can’t share all the details of what we’re discussing and praying in response online, but you will see some of it if you follow our twitter feed either on twitter itself, or on the feed displayed on our main website home page and this blog’s landing page – you don’t have to be on twitter to access these feeds… just use the scroll bars to move up and down.

Enjoy the story!

sharing the little clay bird’s story

June 21st, 2017

Then no, ow, OW! What was that awful scraping? He wanted to take the potter to task, who did he think he was making?! More slip tears squeezed from his little clay eyes as each tiny chisel caught him by surprise. Prodded and poked from every seeming direction, what had he done to deserve such destruction? The potter paused, he felt every tear and he held the little clay bird very, very near. And he whispered so gently, “this won’t take forever, but to fly you must have your beautiful feathers.”

The Little Clay Bird is a poignantly beautiful short story for all ages, written in rhyming prose, which explores one aspect of the relationship between ‘maker’ and ‘made’.

From the little clay bird’s perspective, things look bleak and he constantly doubts his sculptor’s affection for him whilst he is being formed. But the Potter – and increasingly the reader too – is in no doubt that this creation process is a labour of deeply focused love which will ultimately lead to something so good, the little bird can’t even quite imagine it.

We’re thrilled to be sharing it with you, and also to be bringing it to life as an art installation for the next month or so, as our last story window at 6 Church Street – offering passers by the chance to take a printed copy from our window-mounted dispenser too:


Special thanks to:

• our author, Liz Baddaley for giving us permission to share the story of The Little Clay Bird with you.

• our photographer and bird sculptor, Barbara Macnish for all her beautiful and brilliant work.

• our bunting shaper: Emily Tysoe for spending a mucky morning creating our template and organising help from…

Create Café (Victorian Arcade, Ilkley) for kindly lending us some of their pre-painted items to furnish our ‘potter’s studio’.


If you live anywhere near Ilkley, you can enjoy painting any of the biscuit items featured in our window (excepting the little clay bird himself!)  and more at Create Cafe’s brilliant premises this summer. To find out more, visit their website or call 01943 817788.

But wherever you live, our prayer is you’ll be blessed and inspired by the little clay bird’s story and the potter’s extraordinary love.

 

breaking the depersonalisation of personalities

June 8th, 2017

It is a deeply sad irony that an era that so champions the individual should lead to so much depersonalisation of those it elevates as ‘personalities’. But it is ultimately unsurprising. Because at the root of individualism is not really individuals at all, but rather just one individual… the one with a capital I.

So just as the too-often-forgotten-ones in seven billion lose their names, faces and value in comparison to me and my uniqueness and needsthe overly-remembered-ones in seven billion are often inevitably robbed of their three dimensionality too…

This is deeply out of line with the heart of God towards humanity, and the heart for people we must seek to pray – and live – out of, if we want to love like Jesus. So how do we recognise when it’s happening in us and ask for God’s help to champion something different? Especially when it’s directed towards people we are urged to particularly pray for such as our leaders and politicians?

Today is the 2017 ‘snap’ General Election and, please God, the majority of the UK will be casting their vote for their preferred candidate today following around two months of intense political campaigning and commentating.

People feel strongly and politics is important. It is important to challenge injustice and unwise decisions. Sometimes strong arguments need to be made. Righteous anger even has a place. But…

… when individuals are referred to only by their surnames, reduced only to their political alignments, intentionally and deliberately spectated scrupulously and eagerly for the first sign of any mistake or sign of limitation so they can be lambasted or mocked for it… something is deeply wrong.

When it’s overlooked that there are only twenty four hours in a day and a myriad of demands and friends and family and breathing space all needing to be given by candidates alongside memorising manifestos… something is out of control.

When those considered weak or somehow unqualified are belittled and those considered strong and brilliant are so envied that their tearing down is earnestly desired… a house is truly divided against itself.

When even those professing to love God and others are happy to ridicule and vilify their leaders and potential leaders rather than expressing thanks and prayerful value for the those standing, and focusing on examining their policies and yes – to a point – and in loving respect, consider their characters as to their fitness to lead… we, the church, need to get on our knees and repent.

Surely each of us know by now – and if we don’t perhaps we need to ask some further questions of ourselves – the cost of standing up publicly for what you believe in, especially when it is the minority view; the limitations of our own strength in always living out what we know to be true; the very real struggle of balancing calling with family life; the amount of encouragement and strength you need if you’re really going to step out as a faithful pioneer for the sake of the kingdom…

Surely we – who’ve experienced grace upon grace – can model more mercy and appreciation and value to our leaders.

Surely we who follow a Lord who made a point of going after whoever was marginalised in society – including compromising, colluding tax collectors – know that first in line for the twelve today might well be a banker or a politician as much as someone in desperate financial need.

We’re putting this strongly because it feels urgent, whoever is elected. And because finding another way is so easy – and equally inevitable and infectious – when you spend time in prayer.

It’s a way we’ve been led to on our knees. Bit by bit. Stage by stage we’re starting to not just pray for leaders, but to love them too…

Not just in some amorphous, floaty way, but in a specific, deliberate way which looks for whatever is good and noble in them, seeks to understand how they’ve arrived at the views they have (even if we really struggle with them!), seeks to celebrate and bless them every time we pray or talk about them and looks for ways to engage with them that will build them up in themselves as well as communicate what we think or what we’re hoping they’ll do.

These are the decisions that have helped us – little by little – make progress on this journey of counter-cultural love…

  1. We seek to always make a point of calling everyone by their given name whenever we talk about them. We use their first name on its own in prayer as often as we can, and their full name the rest of the time, rather than just their surnames. (We’ve found looking up what their first names mean has further helped in informing our blessing of them. Engaging with who they are and how God sees them makes immeasurable difference.)
  2. We’re starting to invest in taking our time “getting to know” people we pray for/about as much as possible (especially where we disagree with their stance a lot of the time). Almost all public figures have some biographical information available so we’ve been looking it up and spending a while reading it carefully during prayer, having first asked God to prepare our hearts towards them.
    We’re deliberately look for pieces of information that reveal their distinct personhood, evoke respect or inspire empathy… asking: what talents has God clearly given them? What positive character attributes do they exemplify? What experience do they have which brings richness, or helps us understand why they see the world they way they do? What can we celebrate about them, or identify with from our own experience?
  3. We make sure we try to look at them face to face when we’re praying… as if they were with us in the room receiving prayer ministry! We’ve found that finding honouring photos of them that show them smiling – not caught on camera in an unwitting, unflattering moment – really help. And again, taking time to sit and connect with God and them, and praying for a soft heart towards them, has really helped.
  4. We ask God to help us see them as he sees them, and to give us his heart of love for them… although by this point we rarely don’t have our own sense of love and compassion rising! And we ask God if there’s anything he wants to show us about who they are or how to pray for them.
  5. We consciously try to remember these are real people with real lives. So we remember that people gain or lose jobs at elections, have to balance the sacrifice of standing and demands of the work with family needs, and have the same limitations and vulnerabilities we do to stress, over-work, public criticism, under-valuing, sleeplessness or anything else that feels like it might go with the territory.

Tomorrow, campaigning and election fever will be over. But engagement needs to continue. Whatever the result and however we feel about it, could we see 9 June 2017 as a new beginning in our hearts that transforms the nature of our thoughts, prayers, speech and actions towards and about politicians – and all public personalities – going forward.

Love doesn’t score points or impress others with ruthlessly witty one liners. Love will not tolerate scorn, derision, envy or depersonalisation.

Because love does not seek to diminish, distrust or destroy.

No.

Love looks hard and finds the good.

Love celebrates the unique individual made in God’s image and reflecting his glory.

Love champions and extends grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Love expresses thanks for hearts and acts of public service.

Love sees and understands the cost.

Love mourns and rejoices at the right times.

Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

GE2017 – ready-to-send love

May 31st, 2017

Last week we shared how prayer and discussion had led us to see the general election as a gift of opportunity – and the plans we were putting in motion to bless every candidate with an encouraging message of love that also spoke up for others who need courage and love. We promised you we’d share as much as we can in case you want to write to your own candidates too, so this blog is to do that:

Over the last week we’ve been crafting these cards, writing a bespoke message to each candidate in response to positive experience and achievements in their bios, continuing to pray for each one by name, and putting together a joint letter to them all to speak up for the most vulnerable in our society – and the kind of nation the UK could be.

We can’t share the personal messages we hand wrote in each YOU ARE LOVED card because they are specific to the individual candidates’ personal details and wouldn’t help you craft yours in any case.

But we found a bespoke way to thank each and every candidate for standing up publically, acknowledge the inevitable personal cost of doing so, assure them of our prayers and affirm everything in their record which showed their skill and/or track record of standing up for vulnerable people and important issues.

And we told them they are loved and valued by every one of us – whether we’re voting for them or not.

We also told them that we’d agonised over including the letter alongside the card because we just wanted to affirm them at such a stressful time, but that this election was too key not to also raise others who we are praying for – and value so deeply – too.

Here is the text we included in the text to that letter, in case you would like to lift it into something similar of your own to your candidates:

“Dear Ros, David, John, Kris, Paul and Matt,

As candidates in this general election – happening at such a key time in our nation’s history – we wanted to write to you as a praying community seeking to champion the value of each and every one in seven billion people alive today. We feel it’s a vital time to stand up for the kind of nation we want to be and to ensure that the most vulnerable in our world, nation and community are prioritised alongside everyone else.

To that end, we’re sharing this brief list of the issues that feel most important to all of us – no matter which party we are each voting for – for our next government (and whoever of you is elected to parliament) to address. We’ve not included much information; we know you will be deluged, but have bracketed at least one expert and trusted organisation’s website after each one so you can find out more if you want:

Global issues

National issues

Thank you so much for your time. God bless you all,

The Sanctuary’s praying community”

#prayforManchester

May 25th, 2017


Beauty-from-ashes-bringing Father,
thank you that you always use the worst the world does
to beckon still more to the very best
You are and will always be
and the very brightest kaleidoscope colour
Your kingdom shalom invites us to
receive and build together
as Your Spirit moves among us.
So Lord Jesus, together we pray:
“Thy Kingdom Come,
Thy comforting, restoring,
anchoring will be done
in Manchester as it is in heaven.”
Amen.

GE2017 – a gift of opportunity

May 22nd, 2017

Those of us who gather to pray together at the Sanctuary come from widely different backgrounds. But there are some characteristics present in us all. Top of that list is having been so captivated by God’s love for us and every one in seven billion, we are now heaven-bent on embodying that love, as well as making it known.

In other words we’re constantly engaged with making a difference to the world – we’re daily praying and acting in response to headlines, issues of injustice and  community events. So when several of our pray-ers responded to a call to pray about the election with what can only be described as a kind of spiritual exhaustion, it was indicative of the wider atmosphere in our nation…

When the forthcoming snap election was announced last month, the news reports contained interviews with a number of people who expressed a sense of being ‘sick’ of politics… one woman was quoted again and again as saying there was ‘too much politics’.

Media, commentators and comedians have carried on this tone. It’s not so much election fever as election malaise. We know we have to engage with this election – we know how important it is; how crucial for determining not just the course of action ahead of our nation with respect to Brexit and other key issues, but perhaps for even defining what kind of nation we want to be.

We know.

And yet…

There is a palpable weariness.

Even among many of the most engaged.

But it’s vital we turn apathy to opportunity.

Everyone in our nation needs prayer to rise above the sense of heaviness, and to be told that there is hope – resilient, abiding, certain hope.

People standing for election need prayer for protection and need to be told that they are loved and appreciated for who they are in the face of an often gruelling ordeal which, for most of them – whether you agree with their policies and ideology or not – comes out of a desire to stand up for something they believe to be for the common good.

And candidates and parties need to be given help in shaping vision – not just lobbied on pet policies – of the kind of country we could be.

There are many ways to do the above. You will be praying and acting into them already.

But, in case it’s helpful for stimulating further prayer, ideas and actions, having wrestled passed that tiredness, and listened for what God was laying on our hearts, here’s how we’re seeking to respond to the opportunity GE2017 presents us to share God’s love and courageously stand for his priorities.

  1. First of all we’re seeking to share hope with everyone we engage in – not vague or politically based hope, but sure and certain Jesus hope. We’re doing this through prayer, in the tone of our conversations and resources and through sharing an art installation in the window of our current premises.
  2. Secondly, we’re praying for our nation and urging everyone in our national and global prayer network to continue to do the same at this crucial time. So we’re investing our time in writing communications like this one, and in creating prayers like Anchor us Lord so that we all remain focused on God’s heart throughout this process.
  3. Thirdly, we’re creating a special card for each of the six local candidates standing in our area and sending them a message of love, appreciation of the costs of standing for public office, and assurance of our prayers. At a time when most of what comes at them is demands, comparisons, polling pressure and criticism, we want to speak en-courage-ment and grace – no matter what their political stance is, or whether any of our pray-ers are likely to vote for them or not.
  4. And lastly, after much wrestling prayer and discussion, despite us feeling that item three is a huge priority for us – to proactive love those who many in our community will not at this time – we’re including a folded up letter in their cards which also speaks up for others we love; most especially the poor and vulnerable.

We’re going to be honest with them, sharing that we agonised about whether to include this because we want the main message they receive from us to be about them, but that we felt this election was too crucial not to speak up for who and what we believe Jesus is leading us to champion.

Because – as we said above – this election is about who we want to be as a nation as we enter Brexit negotiations, redefine law and much more. It is about choosing a character as well as a course.

We’d love you to join us in seeking to speak and embody hope – especially Jesus-rooted hope – at this time where there is such a pervasive sense of drifting and uncertainty.

We’d love you to keep praying with us for the nation at this vital time.

But can we also go one further, and ask you to think about joining us in finding a way to express honest words of appreciation and love to all your candidates? And to consider enclosing something alongside this that speaks up for the voiceless to them with love and respect – something that voices a larger, kingdom-inspired vision for who our nation could be.

You will have your own list of policies you feel are vital, but we are choosing to highlight serving the global poor, protecting vulnerable groups within our own nation and caring for the environment well – and doing this by referring to the specific recommendations made by the following, trusted expert organisations in reference to this election.

  1. Christian Aid
  2. Tearfund
  3. Traidcraft
  4. Age UK
  5. Shelter
  6. The Children’s Society
  7. The Wildlife Trusts
  8. Friends of the Earth

Next week, once we’ve put our own communications to our own candidates together, we’ll share a bit more of the visuals for their card, the tone of the message we write, and the text we’re developing in case you want to use that more directly.

But whatever you do, we’re praying for you – and us –  to keep receiving God’s hope, love, vision and courage to see GE2017 as an opportunity – an opportunity to share his hope, love, vision and courage even wider.

For his sake, his kingdom’s sake, the UK’s sake and the sake of every one in seven billion he so loves. Amen.

 

a prayer for the UK in turbulent times

May 17th, 2017

We’ve written and published a special prayer – Anchor us Lord – for the UK in the midst of continuing speculations over how Brexit will happen, and particularly with the added uncertainty of the approaching snap election:

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel our islands drifting
and many are hopeless,
uncertain or afraid.
We are tossed this way and that
looking all around for some help in the waves…
Europe? America? Other nations? Ourselves?
Which party? Which leader?
Who can save us now?

Anchor us Lord,
for we often choose to float
on the dreams of a misremembered,
misleading nostalgia
that celebrates a once ‘great’ past
when we ‘ruled the seas’ at the cost of others;
rather than pursuing an honest, diligent present
that humbly builds a future on the priceless value
of each and every one in seven billion.

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel the pull of old scars,
competing alliances
and rival identities
straining our connections,
stretching our unity
and causing us to seek to stand
as a divided people
half-way determined on more division still.

Anchor us Lord,
for you alone can hold us fast and true.
Steady our course
and give us the courage our hearts
– and our nation –
so desperately need
to weather the seas of change
and reclaim the memory of our truly ‘great’ times –
times when we were anchored in hope; trusting in you.

anchor-strong hope

May 15th, 2017

We’re thrilled to be sharing this visible, joyful representation of the anchor-strong hope we have – especially in the light of so much uncertainty in our nation surrounding Brexit and the upcoming general election, as well as the personal situations of so many individuals who will come past the Sanctuary’s base over the next few days and weeks.


Inspired by Hebrews 6:19, our under-water writing proclaims a rock solid reality to rely on:

“There is a hope so strong it’s an anchor for our restless souls…

… a constant, life-line connection to eternal, immovable Love.

It’s sure and steadfast – it can’t be broken or weakened, even when the seas get rough and the storms throw their very worst at us.

Still then, this anchor-hope holds firm and true.

His name is Jesus.”

As so often at the Sanctuary, what God reveals to us in prayer to share with others is also vital and life-giving truth to cling onto ourselves.

And right now, as the Sanctuary faces a season of transition where we move towards a new base and new ways of working, we’re glad of this reminder too!

It is Jesus who is our fixed point and home… and it is the inner sanctuary of communion with him that is our best and permanent dwelling place.

Our prayer is that many people will find hope as a result of seeing this art installation – and that all of us in the Sanctuary’s praying community (especially locally) will do the same!