window prayers

February 28th, 2018

It’s no surprise that the Sanctuary’s move to a new base means we’ve been getting used to new views through new windows. Some of them look out and back towards spacious and uplifting scenery like this…

But some of the windows look up a B road that’s well travelled by walkers, people out with their dogs and traffic moving back and forth on an important connecting route between local villages and towns.

At least once a day, and usually more often, there’s a few minutes where you need to stand at one of these windows that point up the road to do the washing up. And as you do, there’s another few minutes where your mind, heart and spirit can just quietly connect with God…

Only at these times, rather than being drawn to worship (wonderful this is) or  intercession in response to the headlines (important as this is) or even petition about your own life (pressing as this often feels), it’s hard – especially while the sights in front of you are still so consciously new – not to spend the time simply being present with God to the communities and people around you.

When a bus drives up the road it displays the sign of where it’s going and so, almost without noticing, you find you’re blessing that place you’re beginning to get to know better. And then when one’s going back the other way… well, then you’re heart is drawn to pray for that destination instead.

You never know what’s going to come past that triggers a sense of connection and blessing to a different aspect of life in your local area… the secondary school’s minibus; a delivery or service van for a local business; a tractor or livestock trailer; people you’re getting to know; walkers passing through… each one carries an invitation not just to smile, but to bless and pray for them before you even realise that’s what you’re doing.

Where do your windows at home or work face? And how could you find – or make – a few minutes in your day to look out of one and simply bless your community and the people, businesses, livelihoods and community organisations that you are led to think of as you look watch the view, or the traffic, that is in front of you?

This idea is just a fresh incarnation of an old one, which is helping us pray in a new way for a new place… find more simple ideas like it to pray for your own local area in this resource

resources for every season

February 26th, 2018

If you’re looking for Lent, Mothering Sunday or Easter resources, visit our seasonal page to find fresh, outward focused approaches for your worship. (Or browse Fairtrade Fortnight resources here.)

growing our favourite resource

February 19th, 2018

We’ve just updated our favourite resource – the list of God’s characteristics that fuel the back bone of our daily prayer rhythm – with another treasure-trove of new insights discovered as we’ve followed, prayed and studied over the last few months. There is always more of God to search out! And whether you pray with our rhythm or not, this list is bound to spark your imagination and take you deeper into who God is…

sharing all our loving secrets

February 9th, 2018

We’ve just published a brilliant new practical input resource on creative outreach, distilling our top ten tips for sharing God’s love in creative ways

The Sanctuary’s collective sometimes refer to ourselves as ‘accidental evangelists’ – pray-ers, worship leaders and creatives who set out to bring more of the world into the church’s worship, who also found God leading us to bring more worship into the world in some very beautiful and life-giving ways…

As a result, for several years we’ve found ourselves conducting a kind of evangelism that feels very natural to us – it’s simply been an overflow of who we are… and so it’s come out through creating art installations in windows, poetry and allegories, singing on the streets, hand-crafting gifts, hand-writing letters and cards of encouragement and using social media to proactively bless and affirm.

You can browse some of this work here.

For the most part, it’s been really well received and so we felt it was time to try and distil and share some of the lessons we’ve learned.

The result is this resource which we hope and pray will bless and empower you as you too seek to share God’s love in creative ways

Please do contact us if you want to share your stories or ask us any questions about ours.

taking flight – a sixteen month testimony

January 31st, 2018

We love telling stories of what our brilliant God has done in, through and with us. Here’s another amazing one, or at least some of it…

what kind of world?

January 24th, 2018

This lament formed as a heart-cry in response to today’s devastating news from Afghanistan, and is dedicated to Save the Children’s workers and their families there, and all around the world, as we all ask God to comfort them, renew their courage, and as we pray blessing on their brave, amazing and loving work.

What kind of a world is it
where those who champion
the small,
infinitely precious
and vulnerable ones,
are attacked and destroyed?

What kind of a world is it
where love in action
is hated,
visciously wounded
and intimidated even to death
by anyone, however twisted a doctrine they serve?

But then, what kind of a world is it
where people live to protect
the small;
calling unknown children
their own precious priority,
infinitely worth risking danger to themselves to save?

And what kind of a world is it
that has life so written and woven
into its being
that hope always wins
as even the darkest acts
spark infinite avalanches of bright, light love in reply?

And what kind of God are you
who breathes
a blue-print invitation
into each of us,
to echo your  saving design,
whilst still bearing
the infinite weight and scars
of every,
single
rescue and loss
on your broad,
broken
shoulders of peace?

our top ten tips for praying with the headlines

January 16th, 2018

We’ve just published a brand new practical input resource sharing our top ten tips for praying with the headlines

We don’t have all the answers on how to pray in response to the news and current affairs. But here are some of the invaluable lessons that we have gradually learned as we’ve prayed with the news as a community on a daily basis for many years.

We hope you find them helpful in building your confidence and adding to – or confirming – your own experience. And if you have some extra tips you think we should include alongside them, do let us know!

Ultimately, the best way to grow in prayer is not to read resources about it, but to go on an adventure with God into it.

But we hope that some of the practical insights in this resource will inspire, remove fear around engaging with ‘heavier subjects’ and encourage people to move forward in their own journey of engaging with God’s world in his presence.

This new resource focuses on practical pointers exploring the ‘how’ of praying with the headlines, but you may also be interested in reading this blog article, which explores why praying in this way can be so rewarding – and surprisingly uplifting:  http://journey.thesanctuarycentre.org/2016/04/06/the-surprising-joy-of-interceding-for-the-world/

re-charting the narrow path ahead

January 8th, 2018

How do you picture it? The narrow path…

Perhaps, like us, you’ve long seen it as set apart from the broad way, separate somehow; maybe, actually above it and leading still further up a steep hill, or winding through twist after turn of hidden corner and next stretch; uneven, difficult ground; deep, shadowy valleys with just enough light and water to keep going; difficult weather… hard circumstances that hone; sacrificial choices that refine; self-denial that prunes and grows more fruit to bless others.

But what if the narrow path isn’t so much like this at all? What if it’s less of a completely different, (by implication, higher and harder) course and more accurately Jesus’ Way through the broad expanse of joys and challenges that everyone – those looking for his way, and those not – will face in this world.

The narrow path image is one created by Jesus himself, and recorded by Matthew in 7:13-14 of his gospel:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Here (and in John 10:9) Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate’, and elsewhere as ‘the door’ (John 10:7) and ‘the way’ (John 14:6).

There can be no confusion that entering the right way is restoring relationship with God through Christ, that walking the right way is staying in step with him; following him closely, listening to his voice intently, enjoying his company and seeking to obey him no matter what the road ahead holds.

But does his narrow road towards life really look like the description at the start of this reflection?

Does this group of secondary images that much of Christian culture has gradually developed around the original Jesus picture add to, or actually distort, his symbol of discipleship?

Would the God who loved his world so much he came in person to walk his light among the people dwelling in darkness lead his followers along such a separate path?

Could the path that leads to life and the techni-colour purity of the one who created it really, every single time and in every single moment, always lead to the hardest choice or the most difficult terrain?

Just for a moment, let’s imagine re-charting the narrow path ahead. Picture this…

The main way people take is so broad it barely feels like a way – it is more like field upon field stretching out in parallel, and all across it people are moving forward towards the horizon. Some on their own; some in groups.

To the left, some meander or even give up, confused and overwhelmed by their surroundings and unsure of the point of their travels.

To the right, others stride ahead with single-minded, even competitive, purpose having decided their own route ahead, acting as if it is a race to win rather than a destination to reach.

But right through the middle of it all is the thinnest of paths – for the walkers among us, probably something that looks a bit like a sheep path…

It is discernable perhaps only by its flattened grass, gently yellowed from the steps of those who have found it over the centuries and by the light that surrounds each one on it at present.

And if it does have a fence – in parts or in whole – to differentiate it more clearly, every panel of that is a cross-barred access gate rather than a barrier.

It will of course experience the same weather and seasonal fluctuation as the fields around it; it’s walkers are not immune from blisters or sprains or fatigue. Dark nights still fall around them as often as bright dawns rise and shine on them.

But it is the way through because it walks with Life and towards Life.

It is a way that is supernaturally transformational because paying attention to the one who is Life can’t help but make you more alive today than you were yesterday.

It is a way that is beautiful, because it is paced slow enough to notice the rich details of the landscape and people around you.

It is a way that is merciful, because it is visible to those in the fields to the left and right of it, and all who are on it are lovingly conscious of those around them too, ready to stop and encourage others to join them… or to offer first aid, water, or a word of encouragement; eager to chat and laugh with one to the left or come alongside one who is crying on the right.

It is a way that is hopeful because even when its ramblers go through awful weather and reach dread-full obstacles, they remind each other where they are going. And they persevere in going there because they have the very best of company on the way; a Presence and a people to get them through the worst of times.

It is a way that is scandalously grace-filled, for it is always there for everyone to join, at any point in their journey.

It is a way that is contested, opposed and even persecuted because those not on it can easily be persuaded that it is restrictive, laughable or even dangerously misleading. And there are powers that seek to trip up and disable its followers.

But it is the only way that overcomes because it is wise and care-full to avoid potentially treacherous short-cuts or isolated stretches and there is ever present help from Life and his limitless strength and power. And so all those who remain on it to the end reach their long-anticipated destination.

But before they do, while they are still on this narrow path… those who choose to walk through everything with Jesus find – even sometimes by veering a little off to the left or really quite a long way to the right of him – that they learn to tread this almost tight rope course more and more accurately, and that it brings them more and more life and joy on route.

They discover life is full whether they’re looking out from hill-top’s vista or up from valley ditch’s black mire and muck.

They begin to see they are loved more than they could ever love, so they love as much as they can in response. But they love wisely too, for they know they are worth more than many sparrows so they flee any attachment that tells them they are not.

They learn to tread well to the right of hopeful expectancy but resist straying into entitlement.

They start to embrace selflessness without losing their unique self’s flourishing and growth as God purposed.

They have extraordinary faith that their leader will do everything he says he will, but they start to get better at discerning when they are hoping in their own dreams rather than his promises; understand that they aren’t always rightly interpreting his how or when; and most of all, they more and more fully embrace that they are following him not his works.

They become quicker to serve wholeheartedly, give generously and sacrifice astonishingly for others. But they revel too in taking their turn to receive lavish help or gifts. And they cease to be frightened to rest a bit longer than they feel they “should” when they know it is absolutely what they need.

They evolve into reckless forgivers but they are never careless enough with their hearts to not guard them  from the enemy, or any who would partner with him, in unrepentingly or unrelentingly damaging what they know is their well-spring and the greatest treasure they have to give their God.

They seek to be so much more than intentional but to stop just short of striving; to be principled but never so ruled by law that they become their own definition of a Pharisee.

They look to build healthy disciplines, but flee from following these whatever comes, rather than adapting to whatever and wherever the one who inspired them needs them to do – or not do – next.

They are prepared to suffer, and to suffer well as a witness to their first Pioneer’s footsteps (Colossians 1:24), but they do not celebrate or seek privation because they are beginning to understand that whilst Life conquers even the very worst with resurrection, it is not in anyway dependent on death to thrive!

Miraculously, they grow more stunningly obedient and strangely free at the same time. Less themselves and more themselves all at once.

Because this is the Jesus Way.

The way of the one who fasted and went to the cross, but who also laughed and feasted with his friends.

The way of the one who spoke gently saving grace to the adulteress (John 8:1-11) and consistently angry judgement to the exclusionary religious elite.

The way of the one who gave a hillside full of people with good food, leaving abundant leftovers spare, without means testing their need (e.g. Matthew 14:13-21), but who also told the rich young man he must give everything he had to the poor if he truly wanted to follow this way (Matthew 19:16-22).

The way of the one who healed every one of the sick who came to him in one place (Matthew 8:16), but left a village where everyone was looking for him to minister to them, because his calling to preach led him elsewhere (Mark 1:35-39).

The way of the one whose Spirit led Paul to radically tailor  his letters to the different churches he was writing to… for some were straying to the left, and others to the right, and all needed to come back to the narrow path – to re-enter the gate and follow the Jesus Way.

The way of the one who has walked with us every step of the way so far, and whose Spirit is saying again to us today:

“Dear heart, just a little more to the left now; no, that’s a bit too much, come back towards me now because you’ve gone too far… stay close, stay here.

“That’s it, yes that person, but no not that invitation; yes that work, but no, not that one… rest dear heart, rest.

“Yes, you’re right, I am saying that, yes, give that up, sacrifice it for me; but no, not that, dear heart, that is so much more part of how I made you to be and to reach others for me than you realise quite yet. And that, no not that, I love watching how much joy that brings you – enjoy it with me now.

“Well done good and faithful, that’s it, yes, that’s absolutely it… bang on… now just stay with me, don’t keep doing that longer than I’m in it, and don’t start that next thing before I say.

“Just stay close. Just listen… and, yes, almost, but wait for it with me for a while, it’s not quite the perfect time for that yet…”

And then, with joyful, loving laughter in his voice:

“Yes now, absolutely, NOW! Let’s go, go go!”

If you’d like to respond to what you’ve just read…

Here are some questions, one or more of which might be helpful to ask God and yourself as you pray, and in anticipation of your year ahead together:

1. Where might I need to move a little more to the left, or a little more to the right, in my heart-posture, beliefs or actions?

2. What excites me about thinking a bit more about the narrow path ahead of me/ my church/  my organisation?

3. How might holding this slightly different view of the narrow path help me/ us in our personal and missional walk(s) with Jesus in the days, months and years ahead?

a careful and care-filled prayer

December 14th, 2017

for the peace of Jerusalem, and for us all:

Precious Jesus,
thank you that you
love all places and all peoples,
came for all tribes and tongues,
dwell – by your Spirit – in all nations,
choose to make your temple now
in hearts more than buildings,
and will one day come again
to make the whole earth new.

Precious Jesus,
for us who know you
as the incarnate, in-dwelling,
with-dwelling Lord,
and do not call the holy land
home in our day to day lives,
it’s hard to understand fully
the deep, unshakeable and compelling
resolves to possess Jerusalem,
however much we connect
to where you once walked –
or seek to understand those
who walk there today.

But thank you that you,
so much more than us,
understand why specific places
matter so much.
And thank you that you,
so much more than all of us,
know a way forward
that honours your perfect will and application
of your love, peace and justice
rather than our own – or others’ – interpretations
of what you want or what your word means.

Precious Jesus,
I come humbly in my limited,
foreign understanding.
I don’t want to trample your holy ground
or the dreams of anyone made in the image of you.
You already know what I think I think about Jerusalem,
but even while I still dearly long to truly know how you feel for sure,
I do not need to know that to pray with you for its peace,
and the peace of all people from different nations and faiths that look to it.

Precious Jesus, in your tender, weeping mercy,
and in your mighty name,
take this city right now under your protecting wings
like the mother hen you pictured,
and keep all her peoples and connected lands
safe from yet more cycling hatred and war.
And save us, Lord Jesus, please save us
from any who seek power over peace
or simply know not what they do here,
over and over and over again.

bringing new life to Christmas traditions…

December 13th, 2017

… from all around the world!


We’ve uploaded a brand new resource to our seasonal resources page ready for Christmas this year and beyond…

This creative idea to bring new life to your Christmas celebrations and traditions draws inspiration from countries all around the world to introduce you to brand new ideas and share the original Christ-inspired stories behind old ones – all with a desire to help you re-connect more to Jesus as you celebrate his coming in many different ways with those around you.

The fact this resource also lead us on a mini, global tour full of learning from Christians around the world is a brilliant extra blessing, reminding us that Jesus came for all nations, peoples and cultures.

Our hope and prayer is that you’ll be as inspired as we have been to read these stories… and that you’ll experience a more worship-filled Christmas as a result…