Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

celebrating fairtrade with Mervis

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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?

Tuesday, 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

 

 

walking with the homeless

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Fresh from our prayer time this morning, we’ve uploaded a brand new resource: Outside prayer stations – Walking with the homeless will help you connect to God’s heart – and yours – for homeless people, the way they are seen and the help they need. It’s a powerful way to stimulate prayer individually, in small groups with the whole church sent out…

We had the idea to try this out when praying through the term a couple of weeks back with the knowledge Homelessness Sunday was on 22 January…

But even after thinking of it, planning it and writing it to use during morning worship today, it had a big impact on us… especially as it’s our first day back after an un-planned few days off with flu, when shelter, warmth and enough money for medicine have all been vital.

We’d really recommend using this resource to you – even after years of working with homelessness organisations, doing street outreach, writing resources and leading prayer in response to the complex stories of people who have experienced losing their home at some stage, there were new insights and challenges here…

So much so that we even added some extra thoughts in after our own prayer time with the resource, to reflect what had struck us to a new degree.

This is a really helpful and powerful stimulus – it charges and changes your heart. And the people who are facing homelessness today need that desperately:

They need more champions, more people who understand, more people who see them with dignity, more people who will pray and help and change others’ hearts too…

giving peace away

Monday, December 12th, 2016

sparrow song had their last flight of the season on Saturday – singing Christmas wonder alongside the usual repertoire of hope-filled lyrics and heavenly harmonies. Many shoppers said how thrilled they were with this musical gift of peace… and also by the 100 Christmas tree decoration doves that we made to offer to those who heard it. Here’s a few pictures of them, together with the acrostic message we shared to explain why peace really can be given and received:

giving-peace-away-baskets-full

D is for please disarm our hearts and
O is for please help us overcome our differences and begin to forgive;V is for the vulnerability we know this bravery takes and brings, and
E is for the everyone peace must be born in to really fly.

S is for just one single, simple, sparrow falling,
Precious enough for God to notice and grieve;
A fraction then, compared to how he loves us, each and every one.
Rest assured then, this Christ-with-us, there is always hope.
Really, truly, this is why Jesus came; to show us that love –
Only simple, sacrificial love – always wins. And that is
Why, and how, there truly can be peace on earth.
So let it be born in each one of us again God, and let it fly!

giving-peace-away-gift

giving-peace-away-gift-reverse

A big thank you to sparrow song, Stephanie and Jill! Just a few hands (and voices) make light work… and can fly together beautifully to give peace away to hundreds of people!

We’re praying now that each dove that has flown home with someone will make it onto their tree and remind them again and again of our prayers and Jesus’ love and peace – given for them, and for the world he so loves.

giving-peace-away-making

my God is a migrant (a Christmas reflection)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Our Christmas reflection for 2016 is best left to speak – and pray – for itself. (You can download it as a resource here from our seasonal resources page.)

welcome low res

My God isn’t just a God who cares about migrants – or a God who calls himself the God of migrants – although he is both of these things of course.

My God is a migrant.

He’s always on the move.

Leaving heavens and holy places and accepted hierarchies to show up in unexpected places – asking strangers and highly inappropriate people to welcome him in, or sit down and eat with him.

Yes, my God is a migrant.

He writes, and stars in, countless, ceaseless, stories of perpetual motion.

He can’t stop still.

It’s been going on since he invented time.

He came and walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden’s evening light; he broke the ultimate sound barrier to talk plans and promises with Noah and Abraham and so many more.

He dreamed Joseph and his whole family into Egypt, manifested himself at bush and mountain to meet Moses; then led all his people out of it again in a constant, 40 year long criss-crossing the desert journey, always staying one step ahead of them through alternate pillars of cloud and fire until finally, eventually, they were mature enough to settle.

And then 2000 plus years ago, he out did himself. Upped sticks completely if you like. Half split a third of himself off, and brought this precious part of him out of complete perfection and unity to enter our mess completely. Wholehearted, cosmic re-location.

This ultimate rescue plan was properly risky – dangerously, recklessly, lovingly risky.

He comes in human form.

And what vessel does he choose to board with such precious cargo to bring us?

A virgin’s womb.

So much could have gone wrong. Bethlehem just before AD didn’t have twenty first century, state of the art, Western healthcare. Pregnancy didn’t have great odds. Childbirth the same. And devout Jewish virgins? Well let’s just say there could have been plenty of angry men waiting in the wings ready to throw enough stones to end it all before it had barely begun.

But my God makes it.

He does it.

The virgin accepts – risks it all to carry him with brave “yes to God” worship and he’s nurtured and grown and born.

And then he’s just lying there.

For a while at least, the God of the universe is utterly dependent on his mother’s arms for everything; life, safety and even this thing he so loves – movement.

He’s just there lying on his back unable to crawl, let alone walk – totally at the mercy of the elements, of people’s whims; dependent on the success of harvests and a carpentry business and an open, uneducated but willing heart listening and obeying the counsel of his dreams in order to avoid certain death for his “God-son”.

Yes, that’s the bit of the story we’ve made the parallel to before isn’t it?

Yes, my God was a refugee. He had to flee Bethlehem in the night and seek asylum in Egypt to escape Herod’s anger.

But it’s bigger than that chapter. It’s like a mission statement for his whole life.

Because when he grew up, he chose to do it all again. Perpetual motion that is.

The settled life, the carpenter’s shop, the family connections and expectations of Nazareth… he left those all behind for a life on the road, travelling light, choosing to become dependent on Eastern hospitality and his followers’ generosity, so he himself could give everything for those he met.

He put himself at the mercy of the anyone’s welcome so he could welcome everyone into God’s creative, reconciling plan. He shared the endless, abundant riches of the kingdom – the Father’s limitless resources, seemingly holding on to little or nothing in transit.

And the vulnerability of it all? The unorthodox, counter-cultural, shockingly revolutionary nomadic nature of it all?

Well it earned him a lot of enemies.

It got him into a lot of trouble with the religious establishment.

It didn’t go down with those keen on rules above grace and definitions over welcome.

There was as much rejection as acceptance. Probably much more.

And within three years of living like this, he got himself killed.

But I guess, he never intended to stay put in Israel anyway.

Death was always going to be his gateway to the ultimate in downward mobility; he was always coming to rescue even deeper – fearlessly move towards death himself to conquer it with grave-breaking, life-saving, dawn-dimming love!

Thank God my God is a migrant.

Thank God he didn’t stay separate and far away from us.

Thank God he came and asked for our welcome.

Thank God he gives us endless chances as he moves towards us again and again and again.

Thank God he’s still moving among us now – constantly asking us if we’ll welcome him.

He’s here now, asking us to receive him again…

Will we say yes to his presence? His conviction? His transformation? His technicolour-shalom vision of hope and purpose for each one of our lives? Will we say yes to the revelation and obedience his Word is asking us for…

…and to each migrant face and story his own is reflected in so uniquely?

“Yes I see you.  Yes, I value you. Yes I’m ready to listen, to welcome, to somehow find an impossible, gracious, Godly way forward.”

Yes, my God is a migrant.

And I say yes to seeing him in every migrant too.

Oh, that Western hospitality might make you welcome my Lord.

Everywhere you knock, everything you ask, in every area of our hearts and lives, oh that we would answer yes and amen to you.

Please, Jesus, help us to let you depend on us in your vulnerability, test our love and our welcome, and enter in more fully – please be born in us again today.

In your mercy, migrant God, move us all to where we need to be to match and minister your heart – to you, and to all you came, and are coming, and will still come for – and with.

a prayer for frustrated missionaries

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

At the start of October, Gillian Wright came to spend a week at the Sanctuary, to experience our full prayer rhythm. She led some prayer for the creative arts, and also tried her hand at some creating of her own.

praying for peace... in humility

We particularly loved this simple prayer she wrote during her time here, and what it voices about God’s grace to use us just as we are; every context being a mission-field; and the importance of a prayer-led approach to mission. So we decided to share it with you all too:

A prayer for frustrated missionaries

Start where you’re at.
Don’t go looking further,
God is great enough.

Start where you’re at.
On your knees praying to the Father;
eyes shut, thoughts gathering.

Start where you’re at.
Out of your experience,
from who you are –
faults and failings too.

Start where you’re at.

 

 

simply following him

Friday, October 21st, 2016

We’ve been on pause mode from creating new resources for the last couple of weeks in order to collate our:
Annual Review for Sep 2015-Aug 2016: Simply following him


annual-review-cover

Packed with full-page colour photos, stories and testimonies of answered prayers, we can guarantee you a faith-building time as you watch our year together with God replay before you…

So put some worship music on, sit back and get ready to praise our brilliant God and increase your expectancy of what he will do next, as we carry on Simply following him.

the wooden girl’s story window

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

We’re delighted to be able to share pictures of our latest story window, created and assembled on Friday. It brings to life the poignantly beautiful story of The Wooden Girl’s Dancing Dream which passers by can take copies of – and which you can download to read too.

wooden-girl-window-lead

The Wooden Girl’s Dancing Dream is a short story by author Liz Baddaley, which was partly inspired by Philippa Hanna’s song, New For Old, which you can listen to here.

We wanted to bring the opening of the story – which begins in a junk shop – to life, by surrounding our wooden girl with boxes and creating a dream sequence like image to hang above her.

Gifted artist, Barabra Macnish, painted this bespoke artwork, using the vintage Pelham toy that we had sourced to play the part of the wooden girl herself, as the basis for her design.

The opening lines of the story are written on one of the cardboard boxes:

“Our story has a beginning but that is not where we will start. This time we will enter it at point of broken heart…”

Lots of people are already stopping and clearly enjoying the visuals. And already quite a few are taking the story that’s available in a dispenser just beneath the wooden girl herself.

We pray the wooden girl’s story will speak deeply to them – and to you.

Here are a few more pictures for you to enjoy too:

wooden-girl-painting-portrait

wooden-girl-window-closeup

wooden-girl-window-close-up-with-quote

wooden-girl-painting-landscape-in-window

wooden-girl-window-close-up-lit

 

wooden-girl-window-lit

a prayer for Colombia

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Yesterday Colombia’s government and Farc rebels signed a historic peace deal, bringing to an end a 52 year conflict, which has claimed 260,000 lives and displaced eleven million people. It’s a day of celebration in the Sanctuary, as well as in Colombia, because for the last four years this peace process has come onto our prayer board again and again…. at first it seemed to voice only an unlikely, left-field hope but now…

a-prayer-for-colombia

On Sunday, the general population will vote on whether to ratify yesterday’s peace-deal and – if they do – then  the hard work of national forgiveness and re-building can really begin.

Colombia want to send a message to the world – fighting is not the way to win, and we pray that they will be heard in the places that most desperately need to grasp this truth and to believe that peace is not only possible – but essential – for the nations experiencing the most entrenched conflicts of our time.

We also pray that all Colombians will be able to do the hardest thing of all, described so poignantly by the Farc rebel leader –  that they will be able to ‘disarm their hearts’. It is these words that have inspired our prayer for Colombia today – one, we hope you will join us in at this key time:

A prayer for Colombia

Oh Lord our God, source of all life
and every gift that is good –
how can we praise you for this?
For weapons laid down
and pens taken up to draw out
a clear and peaceful path ahead;
for fists unclenched
and opened out
to shake the hands of those they once threatened.

Oh Lord our God, source of all wisdom
and every decision that brings shalom –
how can we thank you for this?
For leaders who realise
that the hardest work lies ahead
as Colombia seeks to forgive and re-build;
and for a nation longing
for a fighting, competing world to hear
that their long years of conflict only made everyone lose.

Oh Lord our God, source of all reconciliation
and every relationship that is right –
can we raise our faith to ask you for more?
Let every vote marked down
by a precious, Colombian hand
be matched by a disarmed heart
ready to voice the mourning that must be heard;
to be generous with forgiveness, repentance and restitution;
and most of all, to move towards “enemies” with love.