Archive for the ‘The art of love made known’ 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.

putting our hearts out there…

Monday, 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

Tuesday, 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….


hope whatever comes

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Old, new and social media have been full of it the last few days; looking back on 2016 with dismay, and ahead to 2017 with trepidation. But every new year – and every new morning – is a blank canvas waiting to capture more of God’s hope-filled, grace-charged transformation, especially in the bleakest places and situations. It’s all about where we choose to look… how we choose to see, and the picture we choose to paint for others:

So our resolution for 2017 is simply this:

“I will remember this – because of it I will have: hope whatever comes… God’s loving kindnesses never run out; they are new every morning. He is completely reliable.”

It’s not new wisdom. It’s ancient.

Its words are inspired by the words of Jeremiah (in Lamentations 3:22-23) who was intimately and tragically familiar with the worst this world can do, and broken by the mercy of a God who forgives and re-gives again and again and again.

New every morning. Great is his faithfulness.

Whatever the news brings, whatever is coming, we have this hope – new every morning and fresh every day.

Let’s not forget where we’ve been dwelling over Advent and Christ-with-us as we enter 2017.

Let’s not forget to keep looking expectantly for how he is entering each situation, and to keep celebrating the rememberance that his presence is still with us – always with us.

Though we still walk in great darkness, the light has come. We have seen it, and it has changed our perspective forever.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)

Sometimes in our every day, it doesn’t look like light is even keeping up – let alone winning. But dig behind the myths and spin and you will find different stories: stories of extraordinary breakthrough and seismic, global change in education, peace, healthcare, poverty reduction, environmental protection and more…

And million about million testimonies of answered prayer and renewed courage.

Do not doubt it. He has accomplished all he set out to do – it is finished…

…and he is accomplishing all he has said he will do.

He holds all time and space in his hands, withholding final redemption only out of the greatest love and wisdom and insight.

And he will return to bring that final beautiful redemption in his perfect timing – and then we will see how every tear has been lovingly shared, and every loose end lovingly remembered and re-purposed.

So until then?

We need fear no uncertainty, no ending and no new beginning or what it might hold.

Christ behind us in 2016; Christ with us in January 2017; Christ before us in every day that is still to come.


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:


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!



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.


see-through Aslan

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Advent has begun, and our Christmas window is up… beckoning people to meet with Jesus through a powerfully gentle message. We’ll let the images – and the words they contain – speak for themselves!





Thank you to the whole team who helped inspire the wonderful, weaving journey God led us towards with this window, and contributed concepts, quotes, practical assistance, focused prayer and/or moral support especially Liz, Jill, Nic, Sandra, Lisa and Stephanie.

Thank you to C.S.Lewis and Pauline Baynes for the original story, words and illustrations, which millions are still being blessed by receiving and sharing today.

And – most of all – thank you to our own amazing artists:

Alison Helliwell-Hodson, who painted our wardrobe door last year, and co-created with God to do something faintly miraculous and servant-heartedly extravagant with half a dozen white glass pens this year…

And Barbara Macnish and Sarah Baxter, whose live art Advent worship of Jesus from three years ago is still serving the One it depicts this Christmas, as thousands of people every day look through Aslan and find Jesus shining through.

We’re praying many will hear his beautiful call as they drive or walk by.

growing the GLOW

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Building on last year’s much appreciated GLOWing window and gifts for 31 October and our 1 November gallery of saints, we decided to grow the GLOW by simply refreshing our windows and increasing the number of neighbourhoods where our pray-ers were ready to give out gifts in. It’s been a great few days!

We began, as ever, by creating glowing pumpkins together in morning worship (below), and then went simple and bright with part 1 of the window itself (above) – serving the message to have its maximum impact:

A couple of our pray-ers made up this year’s #MadeToGLOW gift bags (below) and arranged distribution to different neighbourhoods in our area, and each pray-er involved in the giving ran out… one even had their heart pumpkin taken too!

Reactions were really warm – children loved getting a whole goody bag, and were excited by the badge and stars as well as the chocolate. A simple message about Jesus’ light and love (above) explained why we were giving the bags, and why all of the pumpkins at pray-ers’ houses were carved with hearts:

Then this morning, the main event started. We cleared out all our pumpkins from our window and resurrected a slightly smaller selection of our full gallery of GLOWers from history. (You can visit the gallery here to find out exactly who’s featured and what each one did to shine the light of love.)


This year we grouped the saints under five phrases designed to help unpack more of what it really means to GLOW with Jesus’ light:

By loving indiscriminately – seeing God’s value for every person.

By loving creatively – to find new ways to tell old truths.

By loving intelligently – to explain more of God’s creation.

By loving materially – giving generously to help others.

By loving uniquely – however we were all created to shine.


The window’s only been up half a day – we’ve not even had the chance to photograph it GLOWing in the dark yet – but already lots of people have stopped to look at it in detail, and find out what it means to be Made to GLOW.

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.


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:








a peace-builder’s prayer

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Today we turned our large A65-facing window into a dry-stone wall. Not to shut people out of course! But to inspire drivers and passers-by to join in with building peace through prayer and action.

peace builder window

The window also contains Isaiah 61:4 and a specially writen prayer inspired by dry-stone wall building that you can use in other contexts too…

A peace-builder’s prayer

Master-Builder, I come with work-ready hands
to craft peaceful communities with you.
Word by word, action by action,
help me persist in choosing what is constructive
to build others up and bring rough edges together for good.
And most of all Lord, give me courage to leave space
between what I lay in place, inviting your Spirit to enter in,
making all I build strong and flexible enough to stand and remain.

The window – and prayer – were inspired by a time of prayer earlier this summer (which also inspired this creative resource designed to help people pray about building peace) in which we focused on God as Peace-Maker and built our own mini dry-stone wall in prayer.

It’s great to be able to share what God showed us to so many people, and in such different ways…

(The beautiful artwork raising our sights beyond the wall is an original piece by Barbara Macnish, which was originally created for the cover of our album: Moving with his heart. Find out how you can order CDs or download the songs for free here)



the brewing and blessing goes on…

Friday, August 5th, 2016

It’s lovely that we’re still receiving feedback and encouragement in response to our Brew up… and Bless! creative outreach give-away and feedback for Yorkshire. Here are three new responses from the last couple of days that are just our cup of tea!

the perfect brew

On Wednesday, one of our gift-givers sent us this image – entitled ‘the perfect brew’ which someone he knows who had received a gift had forwarded on to him.  Great to see the tea-bag and magnet in action in a setting that really suggests it’s a proper cup of builder’s tea!

And then on Thursday, this article was published by the Ilkley Gazette, which is an edited version of the release we sent them – the author of the prayer got confused, but the author is so thrilled with Alison’s work, she’s more than happy for her to get extra credit!

Ilkley gazette article

And then today, we received a thank you note through the post from someone we’ve never met who lives in North Yorkshire! He had taken the trouble to write to encourage us because he knows (we don’t know how!) one of the shop-keepers we gave a gift to on Yorkshire Day, who also received a YouAreLOVED card on Valentine’s Day…

Anyway, here’s just a bit of what he said:

“What a wonderfully kind gesture to present [person’s name he knows] with your innovative gifts and prayer card to celebrate Yorkshire Day. Your ‘Loved’ gift a few months ago was met with equal gratitude. I personally feel that this is a positive and much appreciated way of bringing Christianity in to the community.”


At the Sanctuary we have a little phrase – encouragement is the currency of the kingdom – and it is so true. People have no idea – especially those who proactively take so much trouble to find our contact details and get in touch just to say thank you for something – how much difference it can make to our work, or how often it is timed so exquisitely to arrive just when it’s most needed…

Like two weeks ago, when after a very difficult day, we received an email from a lady who lives miles away and drove past our lighthouse window on the way back home from visiting a relative in difficult circumstances in the Lake District. We couldn’t believe that after driving all that way and in such a challenging context, she took the time and trouble to find out who we are and email us about how our window had helped her to sense God’s peace and transform how she was feeling as she sat in slow traffic on the hottest day of the year coming back from such a hard time.

It is pure gold to hear these stories. It’s not why we do anything we do. But hearing what God is doing to reach out and bless people above and beyond how we could have possibly planed or imagined is just wonderful. It’s like a treasure trail of blessing! He is so good and creative, and so, so kind to encourage us by giving us yet more glimpses of his work through us and beyond us.

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing these stories too… happy weekend! Someone put the kettle on…