the power of powerless worship

March 24th, 2017

Inspired by Earth Hour, we chose to go off the grid a little early, and pledged to fast from electricity in preparing for – and during – morning worship yesterday. The results of switching off were incredibly powerful, so we wanted to share some of the experience with you… and recommend you doing something similar yourself at a church service or in a small group session.


But before we explain why it was so powerful, we need to tell you something first.

We failed.

Partly because, following the heart-breaking attack in Westminster the previous afternoon, we decided it was important to read the headlines that morning, as we wanted to incorporate prayer for London into our time together. (Our morning routine usually relies on online news sources, and we didn’t even think of making extra time to buy a newspaper instead.)

But mostly because, although we used no lights, heating, sound equipment, projector, keyboard, laptop or internet based media or print-outs, it was impossible not to benefit from previous uses of electricity.

As we listed the things we normally use at the Sanctuary without thinking to prepare, lead or participate in our prayer rhythm, we realised how few hadn’t at some stage been ‘produced’.

Even the things that felt ‘natural’ such as pens and paper, printed Bibles, candles and matches are with us because of layer after layer of energy use.

As the list of our usual electrical – and hidden electrical – use at the Sanctuary grew and grew, something was also happening in our hearts.

That was – of course – the point… the whole aim of the fast. It did its job!

After it, we are feeling much more thankful

Colossians 16:1 reminds us of something we often forget when we celebrate the wonder of God’s creation – he created all things invisible as well as all things visible: Spiritual powers yes, but also imagination, inspiration, ideas… and gravity, magnetism, and electricity.

But we tend to sing a lot more about the mountains, moors and lakes we can see than we do about these things.

And whenever we aren’t actively practising gratitude for any of God’s gifts, we tend to become less present to it being a gift, and less careful with both our praise and our stewardship as a result.

We often take time to remember just how much our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – are served and enriched by the natural world, and all the wonders God has filled it with…

But today we were truly blown away by how rich we are in our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – because of electricity, and the other gifts it serves and enables in turn.

Songs are recorded and shared widely, and their sheet music, chord charts and lyrics are instantly downloadable for people to play and project to a group of people.

A wide range of art, graphics and films to bring concepts to life are available by typing key words into a search bar.

That ‘somewhere in the Bible’ verse can be instantly at your finger tips, then studied further by flipping to another translation or clicking on a wealth of commentary.

The news is on tap; information and statistics are immediately available to us.

All God shows us in worship times can be shared through resources on our website which people all over the world can access within hours of it being revealed to us in prayer.

And if we want to share a gospel message in the window we can very quickly get specialised art materials (such as glass pens in every colour of the rainbow) delivered to our door to create one… tomorrow!

Transport, printing, heating, lighting, labour saving appliances, devices and gadgets… hot water, hot drinks, stationary manufacture… the list just goes on and on…

Our powerless worship exercise has made us even more aware of the huge amount of energy we’re actually using, and just how much of the time.

Even the best online carbon calculator doesn’t have room to ask you questions about all of these things, or the ability to make a true calcualtion of your complex use of resources.

And as we prayerfully seek to move forward in living lighter, it’s helpful to be more mindful of just how much energy use comes into our worship and day to day life.

By becoming more aware of – and more thankful for – all these half-overlooked gifts, we are much more likely to be more care-full.

By being more present to our usage, we’ll be more mindful of it and, surely therefore, more intentional. Hopefully, we’ll be more cautious and just kinder – to God, planet and people – in our choices over how we use the earth’s resources.

We need to be – in the whole of our lives’ worship. But even more so in our devotion… there’s another level of echo here of passages Amos 5:21-24 that we talk about so often in response to worship that undoes itself through injustice.

Because doing this exercise has also reminded us just how much powerlessness in energy terms equates with poverty and powerlessness in other senses.

An estimated 1.2 billion people in the world today don’t have access to electricity. Most of these people live in Sub-Saharan African countries and rural areas of India.

The poorest people in the world are the most powerless in every sense – and their lack of access to energy cuts them off from so many joys, advantages and riches.

They are also some of the people most adversely affected by the consequences of our power consumption…

We need to consume less, use more renewable energy, and ensure they are given the choice and opportunity to come on grid if they want to…

But our prayer is that they don’t try to emulate our way of life, which has so many flaws…

Because please God, help us remember what we’ve also newly seen again… sometimes when we gain everything, we lose much of what is most important.

So many things can be done and communicated quicker and more conveniently, so we do more and more and more things… and our pace can become exhausting.

So much content and information and variety is wonderful, but sometimes we just pack it all in, and forget to just go deep with one thing, or simply to be.

So little of our time is spent in and with the real, un-manufactured and unprocessed… and so much of our life is detached from the real business of living it… and simply being.

Don’t get us wrong… we’re not planning to retire the keyboard, sound system and projector in order to have ‘earth hour’ worship every day.

The lights are back on, the music’s playing through the ipod dock, the kettle’s resumed it’s constant service, we’re all at our laptops again, typing, searching and linking away… and we’re loving all these gifts.

But we are more grateful to God for them, more aware of the cost of them and – perhaps, please God, perhaps – a little less dependent on them, and another step towards a lot more dependent on him.

To find worship and prayer resources related to environmental justice, creation care and climate change, visit our search by issue page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#PrayForLondon

March 23rd, 2017

Be near to everyone in London Lord Jesus.
Comfort those who mourn,
reassure the frightened,
and turn every heart to love and peace.

resources for Easter

March 21st, 2017

Visit our seasonal resources page to find worship songs, prayers, creative ideas and meditative monologues to help you focus upward and outward during Lent and over Easter and beyond.

prayerfully examining your shopping

March 7th, 2017

We’ve just published a new resource, fresh from prayer on Friday. It’s a creative idea to help you prayerfully examine your shopping with God in order to facilitate space for heart-led changes you could make to your consumer choices as part of expressing your love for God and others. We’ve found it really helpful, and sure you will do too…


We developed this resource for a morning prayer session last week, because we wanted to give everyone in our praying community the opportunity to just sit with God and prayerfully consider their shopping with him.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight and as well as praying about trade, joining in with campaign actions and raising awareness about resources we’ve already created around economic justice, fair-trade, trade justice and global poverty (see our topical resources page to browse these) we have also been engaged in quite a large-scale public act of witness around Fairtrade and the worth of each individual created in God’s image.

Because of this, it’s felt even more important than ever to ensure each of us is re-visiting our own lifestyle and purchasing decisions too, and re-dedicating our choices to God. So we designed this resource to use ourselves – and to share with you – to help us think about being even more prayerfully engaged and accountable around our purchasing choices.

Although we completed this resource in a group session, and shared some of our reflections together afterwards, we each worked through it individually and privately with God; and we’d encourage you to do the same.

It’s an act of worship, of surrender… an important part of our devotion, especially in a culture so consumed with consuming… and so globally  interconnected.

There is plenty of information out there to tell you all the different things you could and should do to be a more ethical consumer – we are hugely thankful for, and reliant, on it (and we’ve included some links to it at the end of the resource).

There are also an increasing number of Bible study resources looking at justice issues and money – these are brilliant.

But this resource aims to be neither; it is not meant to primarily inform or instruct so much as to simply provide a framework to create space for you to sit at God’s feet and listen.

Our prayer is that it will be the Spirit that prompts you about anything you might want to explore doing differently as you shop in order to love God – and each one in seven billion he so loves – even more.

So rather than providing a list of all the things you might want to do differently, this creative prayer resource helps you simply start with where you are at, honestly and naturally, and gives an opportunity for you to see how God might be leading you forward step by step as he convicts your heart of changes you can make together.

Go on, say yes to the invitation to explore your shopping with God… you won’t be sorry you let him into this area of your life…

 

celebrating fairtrade with Mervis

March 1st, 2017

Over the last few weeks, our team, including artist Barbara Macnish, have been pouring hours into preparing what we think may even be the world’s first piece of art painted on tea-bags! It was all done for love; we wanted to help thousands of people think about the people who really bring them their tea, and to consider choosing Fairtrade as a result…

This creative act – and the time lavished on preparing it and its setting – has been a celebration of God’s image in Mervis Kejinga, the tea-picker from Satemwa, Malawi who features in it. And just a small reflection of his love for her and his desire for her voice, and story, to be heard.

As Barbara herself said, she could never create something as beautiful as God did when he designed and made the real Mervis!


We are all connected. And every product we buy is brought to us because of people. It has  real people with real lives hidden behind it. And if we saw them face to face, knew their names and understood just how much their struggles and triumphs are connected to our lives, we might well choose to use our purchasing power differently:


If you want to find out more about how this incredible piece of art was created, scroll further on in the blog…

Because for now, we want to share the story we’re trying to tell with Mervis’ help with you…

Who brings you your tea? Hopefully it’s someone like Mervis…

Because Mervis works on the Satemwa tea estate in Malawi, which has been Fairtrade certified since 2007.

So much has changed here in just 10 years, that there’s not room on these tea-bags to tell you all the good news. But here are some of the  highlights…

Fair pay for picking tea means the children here now go to school and parents can buy nutritious food, proper shelter and basic furniture; some families have started a small business or bought a radio, mobile, goat or bicycle!

And together, the community have funded amazing things like a maternity wing, a fresh water supply for 4,500 people, new classrooms, safe roads, solar powered electricity for 1,100 houses, mosquito nets, malaria drugs …

Ordinary things you’d expect hard working people like Mervis to be able to afford – but which they actually  couldn’t if people like you weren’t buying Fairtrade tea.

Currently, buying certified tea is the ONLY way to ensure the people picking your tea are paid enough to live on…and in some places – such as Assam in India, it is the ONLY way you can help protect desperate tea-pickers from saying yes to people traffickers who promise to give their daughters a better future.

So, please remember Mervis when you shop, and look for the Fairtrade symbol on the tea and other products you buy:

So how did we end up painting Mervis onto tea-bags? And how was it possible?

During times of prayer at the Sanctuary, around both trade and trafficking issues, there had been a sense that we wanted to create an art installation that spoke up for the people behind some of the products we buy, and to connect people passing our current premises with these real individuals, and the risks and challenges they can often face.

Again in prayer, the idea came to one of our co-founders, Liz Baddaley, to focus on tea, trade and trafficking… and to create a canvas out of tea-bags on which a tea-picker could be lovingly painted.

So she asked one of our artists – Barbara Macnish – if this would be possible, and if she would be willing to generously give her time, love and skill, to serve the people behind our products in this way.

Barabara said yes… and so Liz made her first visit to a timber yard(!),  acquired a 1m x 1.2m piece of mdf board, and then stapled more than 300 Fairtrade Clipper tea bags on to it in preparation for Barabara to begin painting…

Then, Barbara built up layers of tissue paper into a kind of papier-mache sculpted surface on top of the tea-bags, ready to paint Mervis on to this. If you look closely you’ll also see that some of the braiding in Mervis’ hair was then ‘painted’ with tea itself. Mixed media art at its finest – wow!

We then had further fun as a team, designing and crafting original bunting and information posters using a photo of a clipper tea-bag as our base design… and hanging just a bit of crockery to add the finishing touches!

Thank you so much Barbara Macnish for all your hard and loving work, Mervis Kejinga for being willing to share your image, name and story with the Fairtrade Foundation and Martine Parry and everyone else at the Foundation for their help and permissions…

Thank you also – as always – to God, for the ideas and inspiration to share his love in new ways as we intercede with him… and to Liz for having the guts to say yes and run with overseeing yet another slightly crazy project all for love.

Our prayer is that everyone who sees this window, and the artwork from it in the media and social media, and in further exhibition spaces in the future, will be connected to the infinite value of the people behind the products they buy…


If you’d like to join us in prayer for economic justice and fair trade, please visit the search by issue index page of our online worship resources library to find songs, written prayers and creative ideas to help you.

a gift to 2017, with love from psalm 72

February 22nd, 2017

It’s a wrestle to pray for world leaders at the moment isn’t it? You can feel the tension without even taking in the day’s headlines, or looking at your social media feed to see what latest month’s worth of news has happened in just 24 hours, and who is – often understandably – incensed by it…


Post Brexit and post ‘Trump’, there is a deluge of information, rhetoric and reaction and – among many – a sense of confusion, bewilderment and even hopelessness.

But this is not the first time leaders have done things that many of their people struggle with. And it is also is not the first time Jesus’ followers have found themselves at odds with those who exclude and exploit… or those who dehumanise the excluders and exploiters.

And so, not only is there always hope; there is also always practical help with how to pray too.

For us, as so often in times of struggle, some of the most pertinent help has come from the book of Psalms; a precious collection of raw-voiced responses to every imaginable context in which the people of God might want – or need- to fall on their knees and pray…

This time, the re-orientating rescue came when our cycle reached Psalm 72 a few days ago…

Take a few minutes to read it now.

It’s an interesting one – a prayer for the King to lead well and a blessing on him to live long as defender of the needy… blessing all nations through his righteousness.

The psalm is attributed to Solomon, but its last lines voice it as the final prayer of King David.

Commentators always enjoy debating this kind of thing, but most of them form the likely conclusion that Solomon crafted the song after a prayer David spoke, perhaps on his death bed, and the fact it makes references to both the King and the king’s son underlines this…

So why is a thousands of years old poem written to speak blessing on the kings of the historic kingdom of Israel a gift to us and our intercession in the troubled opening months of this year?

Because it brings us back to three important truths:

1. When we pray for leaders, it must be with respect for both the image of God they bear and the authority they have been given – yes, very uncomfortable sometimes, but given, even if the purpose of why is unclear. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Romans 13:1)

2. When our minds are confused, and our emotions are high and our hearts are genuinely broken at the rhetoric and actions being taken in the name of our nation, or our faith, it’s hard to pray for those responsible in love. Instead of remembering who our battle is against (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-5) we turn our prayers against those who oppose what we believe to be righteous.

But Psalm 72 brings us back to what the vision of a truly godly leader is… and leads us in the example of praying for the leader in question to step up and into a demonstration of these things, through a transformation of their heart.

Instead of leading us further into the swirl of reactionary speculation, judgement and fear which voicing our own prayers simply out of what we are thinking might well do, its first seven verses ground us in proactive, watchful, blessing prayer.

3. This psalm also has its own particular context in another specific, and flawed period of history, which helps us remember the liberating truth that no earthly leader is perfect or exemplary. And whilst we need some of the psalm’s words to help us pray for our earthly leaders, we can also use them all to pray for a speeding of God’s perfect kingship to be fully restored in the earth.

For there is only one king all other kings should bow down and – as the psalm says – it is the Lord God alone who does marvellous deeds worthy of our praise. It is in him we must trust; whether the leaders we follow gain our disapproval, or our devotion – perhaps especially when they gain our devotion…

Psalm 72 is a welcome gift as it is. It needs no modern re-writing or re-purposing to be applied, razor sharp, and loving-hearted, right into the midst of current political upheavals and crises.

So like we have, can we invite you to receive it as if for the first time today, and to try to read it as a worked example? We’re sure you’ll find it really helpful if you can remember its key first seven verses phrases and approaches to pray over our prime ministers, presidents, monarchs and chancellors… and at a local level too over our MPs, councillors and even church leaders… especially when your thoughts or emotions whirl and wrestle, and you can feel anger or judgement rising…

Why not start praying with it now?

Pray that [insert name] would be endowed with justice and judge the people with righteousness, ensuring particular attention and proactive justice for those who are afflicted or weak.

Ask God to use the resources of [insert nation, area or group] that he has given to all of the people under this leader’s jurisdiction to be released and well used in order to bring everyone stability and plenty.

Spend time praying for [insert name] to have a softened heart in order that those who suffer or are vulnerable – and especially the children of these individuals and groups within society – are cared for and safe.

And ask God to give [insert name] a revelation of who the true enemy is, when they are tempted to live out of fear rather than love, and to defend themselves from those who need as much defending as their people, rather than recognising the devil’s schemes to turn people against each other.

There is an oppressor to crush – the father of lies – so pray for [insert name] to see the truth and oppose all lies, fear and oppression.

This kind of leader – the one you have been praying for to emerge, and blessing the image of God in – this one, you will find you can pray for to have long-lasting authority…. because who doesn’t want a leader who is like rain falling on a mown field?

Timely, serving, safe, refreshing and life-bringing…

… a leader under which the righteous could, and would, truly flourish.

And remember, anything is possible with God. So turn your gaze back to Jesus as the psalm’s closing verses remind us to, and declare:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.”

If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and written prayer from last week – how does love take hostile ground? The prayer from that blog is also available with the prayer guide from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

how does love take hostile ground?

February 14th, 2017

14 February is the Sanctuary’s birthday – and we love celebrating it by sharing the greatest love we’ve ever known… the reason why we do everything we do. And we’ve seen our simple celebrations change the atmosphere year on year. But this year, there’s been something else on our hearts in the lead up to this date too; and that’s just how much more than ever we need love to be at the centre of all our responses…

We need to love as we are loved.

We need to love like never before.

We need to love whatever comes.

On our knees; with our words; with our whole lives.

We need to watch our hearts.

Yes, us… the ones who get it…

The ones who’ve been captivated by Jesus’ love.

The ones who are trying to spend our lives demonstrating it.

Us… yes us… the ones who get that the last come first in God’s kingdom and that he champions the poor, the broken and the weak.

Us who have absorbed that God hasn’t changed his mind about charging us to welcome the stranger.

Us who are outraged that people could put his name next to any other plan than sharing what we have with whoever is in need. Whoever.

Yes us.

Because our righteous anger and Proverbs 31:8-9 commitment can so quickly become charged with something else.

Love can’t take hostile ground with any hostility present in it.

That isn’t love. That’s a house divided against itself that will surely fall.

If our prayers for changed hearts lead us away from loving those denying others love… then love has not won.

If our words to change minds begin to forget God’s image in those who are dehumanising others… love has not won.

If our actions to transform policies, practices and provision – or our horror at who has power and how they are abusing it – start to categorise someone as irredeemable… love has not won in us.

Instead, love might just be losing the ground it once had in us…

Keep speaking up lovers of justice.

Keep challenging all that exploits the poor and broken and everything that excludes the refugee.

Keep praying for deliverance.

More than ever.

Keep signing petitions, going on marches, tweeting the truth and filling your conversations with stubborn hope and persistent, dogged welcome.

But seek, with Christ’s help to take every thought captive, to not let anyone – anyone at all – be thought about, prayed for, or spoken of without a trace of love… however unloving they seem to be, and however hard it is to love them.

Try always to resist reducing individuals to their surnames or their roles or their political positions and opinions on anything.

Remember who we’re really fighting.

Ask for Jesus’ help constantly.

And, with the power of his Spirit,  together, let’s love all hostile ground into submission until its taken and softened and loving again. Even if we don’t see that day ourselves. Even if in some instances it never comes and always says no to Jesus’ better way.

Please.

Please.

Can we love more recklessly than we can ask or imagine is even possible right now.

Because Love has already won the war. And the best way we can win each battle is by fighting it in love.

Let’s pray…

Lord Jesus –
Love made known to a hostile world –
you stared hatred in the face
while you hung on the cross,
and loved all who destroyed you,
themselves and each other
with reckless, resilient love.

Lord Jesus,
Show us how to still turn over tables –
with passionate, intolerant commotion
about injustice, exploitation and profiteering religion –
but without somehow flipping our hearts
half over and wholly out of love
in the process.

Lord Jesus,
we need daily help
to tell the truth in love
in our conversations,
social media feeds,
campaign actions
and most of all, in our prayers.

Lord Jesus,
fill us with your love
for those who do not love
the valuable and vulnerable.
And this way, let’s take the hostile ground
remaining in their precious, fearful hearts
by challenging them always and only in love.

Ed. If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and prayer guide – a gift t0 2017, with love from psalm 72 The prayer guide from that blog is also available with the prayer from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

 

 

putting our hearts out there…

February 13th, 2017

At the Sanctuary, 14 February has become our favourite day of the year! Because showering our town with love is a really fun way for us to celebrate and share the greatest love we’ve ever known. Earlier this month, we filled our window with love and over the last few days we’ve been  squirreled away crafting 282 gifts to go out beyond our walls and through the letterboxes of every shop, office and restaurant around us. We can’t wait to bless every team in town. But for now we just have to be patient and wait till nightfall when everywhere is closed….

loved unconditionally

February 7th, 2017

We’re just a week away from one of our very favourite days of the year. Behind the scenes, our pray-ers are busy preparing some very special surprise gifts to bless everyone around us with. Following on from biscuits, chocolates, roses and cards, this year we’ve going with something people can keep… But meanwhile, our window is already blazing out this hope-filled truth to everyone driving or walking past:

The message we want every person to receive – that they are loved unconditionally – is accompanied by the use of adapted and extended song lyrics from a song we’ve found powerful to use in worship ourselves, and to share with others on the streets.

The bridge of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song ‘Pieces’ provides a series of statements describing what God’s love is not like, speaking hope, healing and promise into many damaging situations and relationships…

Whether people feel loved or not; whether they’re in a relationship or not, whether they’re happy with their status or not… we want to make it clear – they are loved. Unconditionally. By a love like no other. A love that’s constant, pure, engaged, present – a love revealed in Jesus.

You can listen to the whole of ‘Pieces’ here.

We’ll post again when we’re ready to share images of our gifts… (ed. here you go – here’s a link to our 2017 gifts.)

What could you do to spread the truth to those around you that they are loved too?

Want some pre-prepared ideas from previous years? Use our blog’s search facility and type in ‘loved’ and/or Valentine or have a look at our art of love made known gallery….

 

dedicating your time

February 1st, 2017

It’s February! But God’s mercies are new every day of 2017… what has he laid in store for you to pray and do with him today? This new written prayer for everyday missionaries is really helpful for dedicating your time on a regular basis…

Lord, I’m leaning in close now,
quiet my thoughts so I can hear you speak
and so I can be present to you;
I want to inhabit these words and thoughts I offer
in spirit and in truth…

I have come to worship you –
and to surrender my whole life
as a missional offering to, and for, you.

I want to learn still more how to move with you.
I want you to set the paces and the places;
to walk me forward with you.
Lead me in prayer again
through each area of my life
that you have led me into so far
and each thing on my heart
that you have set before me
for today
and for the future.

They are yours – I am yours –
let me see what you are doing,
hear what you are saying
and do and speak these things in love…
nothing more,
and nothing less.

Show me the walls to take down,
the shelters to build,
the people to reach out to,
the times to act
and the times to wait, rest or stop.

Show me the old dreams to be faithful to
and those to let go of as past their season;
reveal any new visions you have for me
and guide every step towards their becoming reality
in perfect, surrendered timing…

Show me the people to receive from,
to run with and be spurred on by –
and make me brave enough
to see the unique gifts you are giving me
to pour out your love and life
for all who are still ‘outside’.

Make me so in tune with you –
in my spirit’s core, and through its every outward expression –
that your message rings out clear and loud from me
as a beautiful call to worship that resonates and beckons
others to come close to you too
and to receive your love
and your love-led solution for their need.

It’s all for you, with you, in you, through you –
always, only about you; not me –
my precious, sovereign, faithful Lord.