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

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…

all poured out…

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

What a brilliant time we had yesterday, pouring out a beautiful blessing for Yorkshire Day that we’d been brewing up for months…

brew up and bless

We gave out 500 of these beautiful gifts, which included two customised Fairtrade tea-bags and a bespoke fridge magnet and postcard featuring our very own brewing prayer. Find out more and read the prayer here

BrewUpAndBless gift

We started just after 3pm and by 4:30 we had only empty baskets left! But as members of our praying community sat round them at 5PM prayers yesterday, we looked at them with even more of a sense of celebration than we had done when we’d managed to make enough gifts to fill them all…

This was because of the memories of all the smiles, laughter and conversations we’d had with the hundreds of Ilkley workers, residents and visitors who’d received the gift earlier that afternoon. There was just so much joy in it all. People’s faces lit up at the gift – especially when they realised it was focused on Yorkshire’s shared love of tea!

Lots of people said they could never say no to a brew! And many others commented straight away on Alison Helliwell-Hodson’s stunning artwork.

It was great to receive thank you tweets from shops we have a growing relationship with and to have a conversation with one business owner in particular who was thrilled with her gift and also remembered  the roses we’d love bombed Ilkley with for Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Best of all – as ever – is knowing that as well as that moment of connection when we give the gifts to people, smile and have a chat, the gift keeps on giving as it goes home with the person. Perhaps this year, the magnets and brewing prayer postcards will stay on people’s fridges even after they’ve drunk the brew made from those special Brew Up and Bless tea-bags…

One thing’s for certain though… the day had a special flavour that’s lingering well into today.

And actually the pouring out isn’t all quite done, because the window remains to keep infusing that joy into our community throughout August…

Yorkshire Day may be over but Yorkshire people’s love of tea isn’t, and passers by and car passengers are still stopping to look at – and take photos of – the artwork and brewing prayer displayed at the Sanctuary:

BrewUpAndBless window lead

It is such a blessing to share God’s love, beauty and generosity with people!


brew up… and bless!

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Tea plays a key role in our ministry as well as the culture of our region and the UK as whole, so it’s no surprise that it’s provided the central metaphor for our Yorkshire Day creative outreach. But the idea itself came in a time of prayer, so we’re struggling to take credit for it…

BrewUpAndBless window lead

But we’re not struggling to give credit to the wonderful artist who took the brewing and blessing concept to the next level. Alison Helliwell-Hodson is Ilkley based and has been a precious member of our praying community ever since its early days when she offered to paint the mural that had formed part of our initial vision for the Sanctuary’s space.

Her #BrewUpAndBless artwork packs a punch from a distance, but the detail when you get close up is astounding. Just beautiful.

We’ve used it not just to display in our window – along with our brewing prayer and some tea bag mobiles! – but also to form the basis for making 500 bespoke Yorkshire Day handmade gifts to give out to shopkeepers and residents in Ilkley at teatime this afternoon:

BrewUpAndBless gift

The gifts (which include a postcard, fridge magnet and two customised Fairtrade tea-bags) feature another bespoke creation – our brewing prayer:

BrewUpAndBless postcard back

BrewUpAndBless postcard front

BrewUpAndBless tea bag

BrewUpAndBless magnet

We’re so grateful to the more than twenty pray-ers who came in throughout Thursday and Friday to make up the gifts. There was such a fun, loving atmosphere as we crafted them together. And as you can imagine, the kettle worked harder than anyone, brewing up constant fuel for the workers…

We’re really looking forward to writing our next blog tomorrow and being able to let you know just how blessed people have been as a result of so many people coming together and giving their time, talents, prayer and resources so generously.

But meanwhile, it’s our prayer that our window, gifts and social media activity for Yorkshire Day this year will share a powerful image of God’s love poured out for us, bring people together around a shared love of tea and Yorkshire and inspire gratitude – and perhaps even prayer – for the welcoming and community building spirit that characterises so many of Yorkshire’s people and places.

It’s our heart too that our brewing prayer might bless people well beyond Yorkshire. The recent EU referendum revealed many divisions in UK society, and the headlines have been full of acts of hatred. Gathering around a cup or pot of tea together is a very simple thing – as is prayer. Anyone can do them, but they are both powerful ways to re-build hopeful, loving communities.

Wherever you live, why not join in by praying with us now?

Stir up in me –
and everyone in my neighbourhood –
an energising, rich flavour
of robust, resilient love,
for family, for friend… and for community.
So that like the very best cups of tea,
we can all offer real comfort
and come alongside each other in uncertain times
til our society can again be infused
with the refreshing flavour
of kind words spoken
and people gathered together to build with hope.
God who poured out your very self for us,
brew up a blessing in us – and through us – I pray.