Circle of Love as a Celebration of May Day (With God at the Centre)

A brief glimpse of the May Day celebration held at Cross Hill Methodist Church, Hunmanby on Saturday 16th May 2015 from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00pm.

Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (1)A lighted candle was the centrepiece of a circle of chairs on which those attending were seated. The candle flame was there to remind us of the light of Christ and how the darkness can never put it out.

Our day was spent weaving in, out and around this circle of love – symbolic of a maypole dance – through quiet reflection… activities… prayer… and interaction with one another. As we weaved around God at the centre it reminded us that God is the centre of us. And through weaving in, out and around the circle throughout the day, during various activities, we were able to contemplate on the greatness of God’s love for us and recognise our own love for God.

 

Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (2)We celebrated the dance of creation with a dance around our maypole (above). Those who chose to remain seated danced in the spirit by mirroring/improvising the actions of those dancing in the circle, thus enabling full inclusion, as the light of Christ radiated from the core of it.

This meditative dance afforded time and space to focus on the day’s silent prayers of our hearts and our offering of them to God from within our shared creativity.

A good day of fun and fellowship with love at its heart.

Julie

(top photo: candle is shown as unlit for its return to my home)

Wall of Peace

Putting the World to Rights at the Wall of Peace

This simple idea stemmed from a personal experience at a special service for peace that I attended last year. We were asked to use post-it notes to pin prayers for peace onto a wall and I asked myself: ‘how can I take a similar idea into the community?’ Answer: I could ask people ‘when you think of peace – what do you see?’ The perfect opportunity for this presented itself and the Wall of Peace in the Foyer at the Library during the Books by the Beach Festival April 2015 (when lots of visitors come to events there) was set up.

I also created a Facebook page to start the responses off by printing these out to pin on the wall at the onset of the event. (https://www.facebook.com/jmfairweather.co.uk). In addition, I received contributions via text and email from friends – including two from friends holidaying in Berlin (with photos of The Berlin Wall attached)!

The first day was quite slow as library users came and went, barely looking at the wall, and festival goers looked over suspiciously on their way up the stairs to the concert room where their chosen writer was speaking. I encouraged all those who glanced my way to come over and discover what it was about. It was an interesting day watching people’s first tentative steps to make a move towards the wall. The highlight of this particular day has to be a spontaneous truce between two people taking place at the wall – which made it all worthwhile.

On the second day, people were beginning to get used to me standing there, waiting to catch their eye, and they were more relaxed about coming forward – without being prompted in some cases. The same people tend to come in each day, as well as an additional mix of folk, and the regulars ambled over for a chat so I was able to coax them more naturally to complete a response through that. This second day saw varied individuals at the Wall of Peace, thus – to all these people in turn – I was a stranger, a friend, a confidante, a listening ear, a puzzle solver, a bag holder, a loo director, a pathfinder, a writer on behalf of those who couldn’t hold a pen, and so on. People have such fascinating complexities and I found it challenging to see who would walk in and talk to me next. I ended the day needing to trim the contributions down to make room for more. As an added bonus, I made several connections and contacts to help develop this project further.

On day 3, I felt I was coming to the end of my energy and was grateful for the ongoing cover support from the Scarborough Flare Committee – and a friend who continuously checked in to help out – which stopped me flagging.

As the library was closed to the public after 3pm on day 3 and the whole of day 4, we had to try not to encroach too much on loyal event goers and wait until they showed an interest before approaching them. However, many of them were happy to take a card and several brought them back to the wall as they left the building. So the end of day 3 saw more trimming and tidying of the contributions in preparation for the last day.

By day 4 the wall was pretty packed after a last trim and tidy before the final event of the Festival. Many event goers returned for the finale (Val McDermid) so most of these had already contributed a peace card though there were a few people writing cards as I left that event with more promising to return – therefore, the display will be left up until Friday 24th April.

The Peace Wall was a beautiful experience of community working together and a great team effort. I met some intriguing people with diverse opinions about peace – all of which will make for a good melting pot for the planned follow up performance from the responses. It is exciting to be part of something that started with a simple idea that the community embraced by their willingness to participate and develop together. I am looking forward to preparing the performance with fellow local writers and performers.

A notice will be available on social media, in the library and Scarborough News giving details of the performance date and venue a.s.a.p. It will be a free event with voluntary donations going to the Scarborough Amnesty Group.

(Please do call into the library up to 24.4.15 to read the responses and/or add one of your own.)

Julie Fairweather 21.4.15

Photos on Day 2, 3 and 4:

                                             Day 2 WoP

Day 3 WoPDay 4 WoP pre final event

Sacred Space of the Heart

Poustinia is a place where you can physically go and shut the door on the world to be alone with God – it’s a desert place where you can meet with God in silence, solitude and prayer to listen to what he is saying to you.

The following is an adaptation of Poustinia for Sacred Space Prayer Station, Burniston Church (Scarborough) during Easter. I pray that people who visit the prayer station over the Easter period will find their Poustinia waiting.

…….

Sacred Space of the Heart (Poustinia)

Seek the open heart and listening soul of a silent contemplation by locating a sacred space within your heart. This is a desert place where you can meet Christ in silence, solitude and prayer. This type of stillness can fulfil a yearning for those who desire communion with God.

Leave the noise and harried pace of daily life to enter your place of silence and solitude – and shut the door on the world around you. Contemplate the Easter story in visual form at the Sacred Space Prayer Station. Maybe this will be the place where you encounter Poustinia, your personal desert where you can return whenever you need silence, solitude and prayer.

Once you find Poustinia within your heart you will have it with you always and everywhere – God within you (Immanuel). You can return to that sacred space anytime in your imagination: in the marketplace, in the midst of countless conferences, traffic jams, bus trips, or a hospital ward – and find consolation within your vision of a personal desert that can bloom in simple, profound prayer.

…….

text adapted from http://www.madonnahouse.org/publications/store/shop/doherty/poustinia/ where you can read about Poustinia in its entirety.

 

Cruel Thorns

Lent 5 was on 22.3.15: Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:

A Circle of Thorns and A Purple Robe

I thought retirement during the Lenten period would be a fitting end to my working life as Administrator for the Methodist Churches in the North Yorkshire Coast. This particular role in my employment history began in Lent 2007 (the same time as my journey to becoming a Christian began). On reflection, I don’t think it was the best time of year for me to retire. I’ve found it difficult to hold space for these important things in my life at the same time and have been caught up in a whirlwind of chaotic anxiety – trying to balance them for the past 5 weeks – as well as keep on top of my creative writing projects. Impossible!

I processed and justified the emotions I’d been through since my notice of intent to retire in 7 points – which felt a bit like stages of grief. Without elaboration, these were:

1. Admitting I was old enough.
2. Denying it was happening.
3. Challenging self and others.
4. Accepting.
5. Acknowledging value of self.
6. Disassociating.
7. Letting go.

I hadn’t been prepared for my unexpected mood swings and behaviour in response to a backlash of comments from other people. This is ongoing as people seem to think they have to tell me what I want from my retirement – as though I have suddenly become incapable of making a decision and am unable to discern what’s important to me in my own life! I know they are trying to help but it is winding me up further – so please stop if you are reading this and are one of those said people.

Therefore, it was appropriate today that I could spend a day of reflection with the resident staff at Madonna House, Robin Hood’s Bay, to try and catch up with myself or, to be more exact, for my soul to rest in stillness and hold the space so I could simply ‘be’.

For the last 5 weeks I have been so busy planning my retirement (or trying to without being influenced by what others think my retirement should consist of!) that I have failed to spend quality time listening to God. So, I prayed and meditated on what stood out for me in The Little Mandate – a creed lived out by the Madonna House Movement and instigated by its founder, Catherine Doherty.

I began with the line: ‘Pray – I will give you rest.’ I needed that. I prayed for God to bring me rest and peace so that I could find some space to hold and allow my soul to catch up with me. Then, when I was ready, I moved on to pray and meditate on the first words: ‘Arise! Go.’ When I was ready, I walked down the stairs of the building and was drawn to a shelf that housed cards, reflections, inspirational books, pebbles and icons. I picked up ‘Peace Will Abound’ an inspirational booklet published by Salesian Missions. When I opened a random page, a poem by Steven Michael Schumacher, entitled ‘Love shall lead you home’, found me.

It read:

Love shall lead you home,
When you’ve lost your way;
Love kneels down beside you,
When you need to pray.
If it’s very dark,
Love will hold your hand.
There’s no need to speak,
For love understands
When it’s just all wrong,
Love will make it right,
Love is God himself,
The fullness of life.
…….

Enough said…

Julie

poem © 65837 Salesian Missions

Next: Lent 6 (29.3.15): Palm Sunday Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:Palm Branches. Blog re Postenia Prayer.

Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness

I was aware that Week 4 of Lent at Sacred Space Prayer Station for Sunday 15th March was symbolized by The Whip as I began the ‘Lent in a Day’ Quiet Day at Cross Hill on Saturday 14th March. To be close to God was the reason I attended the Quiet Day. I needed to get back on track with that. I have drifted away recently and been quite neglectful in my walk with God because of my busyness. The title for the day was Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness and I felt that this added to The Whip’s symbolism for me personally.

The following thoughts are prayers that came to me during my reflective meditations from the four sections: What is self-discipline; being out of step with God; Jesus and Forgiveness; Forgiving Others.

Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness

I admit a need to find new ways to lose old ways,
to resist distractions that keep me away from you;
To discipline the ‘I’ in sin;
To use self-control;
To take time out for reflection;
To be aware of Christ; and the Holy Trinity.
I hope Lectio Divina offers a fresh start.

If I repent (from temptations I have given in to)
with a broken spirit and contrite, humble heart,
the truth will set me free from my old ways –
if I trust that you have put an end to my sin .
And the grace and mercy of Christ will shower me
with colours of love to create in me a clean heart
and renew a right spirit within me.

Am I healed? Am I forgiven?
How can you forgive the things I’ve done
when I cannot forgive myself?
I keep a record – you do not.
I go fishing in the past – you do not.
That’s how.
And this…
that you sent your son to die for me
on that torturous cross
as an atoning sacrifice for my sin.
How then dare I even ask ‘Am I truly forgiven?’

Help me to accept your forgiveness
so I can be healed enough to forgive myself.
For my dear brother, I pray for healing
from the bitter agony of choices he’s made.
Let his unforgiving heart learn to forgive himself
thus ending the pain of our estrangement –
and setting us both free.

Amen

The colour of forgiveness is blue – a healing calm – those who love much, forgive much… and God forgives ALL our sins (much) because he loves ALL of us (much)… no matter what.

He sent His son to die on that torturous cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Communion in my heart

Always a work in progress… Communion in my heart

Continuing with my transition into retirement at Lent (Week 3: The Bread and Wine) and thinking about His body that was broken and His blood that was shed to bring about a new covenant.

Communion in my Heart

I come to Your table of bread and wine
to receive from You what is not mine
grace and mercy for all I’ve done
my sins are paid for by Your Son

I leave Your table of bread and wine
accept from You what is now mine
and I turn from darkness into the light
as I consider the cost of His last night

Leaving it there for now… to take time to consider communion in my heart…

@ Sacred Space Prayer Station

Washing Away the Past

Always a work in progress… washing away the past.

Continuing with my transition into retirement at Lent (Week 2: The Bowl and Towel) and thinking about servant hood and Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet following The Last Supper.

Washing Away the Past
Washing away what could have been,
what should have been – the perfect role.
The dirt and grime are not hers to own.
They simply are the situation – the causality.
Bereft of support, no program of structure,
going with the flow is the only option.
Her transformation’s encased in a secluded space
with its source of sustenance lost in translation.
She’s separated, expired, is extinct
as she waits in the darkness, prays for the light
and longs for redemption to rid them of sin.

 

 

The Pebble of Betrayal

(always a work in progress)

The Pebble of Betrayal 

She keeps a pebble in her pocket
from a time when she felt
useless, discarded – a cast-off.
Hurling insults at her like stones,
they never questioned the reason
she was leaving such a perfect role.
She picked up their stones, one by one,
and tossed them into the sea.
As the stones sank and the ripples spread,
she simply walked away.
She keeps a pebble in her pocket
and each time she touches it,
she remembers them.

(17 February 2015 at Writers’ Circle, Scarborough)

The poem is deeply connected to my emotions around letting go and moving on, probably due to my impending retirement. A change of theme at the Sacred Space Prayer Station (images below) put things into perspective for me. As two of us arranged our interpretation of ‘The Purse of Betrayal’ for the 1st week of Lent, the tomb (death) and butterfly (resurrection) seemed to mirror my emotions – thus marking the start of my journey through Lent for this year. For me personally, this is about letting go of negativity (death) in order to allow positivity a prominent place in my thoughts (resurrection).

Sacred Space is really important to me. It keeps me focused on Jesus and reminds me that he is only a prayer away… whatever emotions I am experiencing.

(18th February 2015 at Sacred Space, Burniston Methodist Church)

Sacred Space.Purse of BetrayalSS.Purse of Betrayal.3jpgSS.Purse of Betrayal.2jpg

 

 

The Pearl of Great Price

What is next on my journey now that the end of my working season is almost upon me? I need to slow down and ponder this but can’t stop the whirlwind that I find myself in. Nothing else is slowing down long enough for me to consider it. I don’t think I will know how to introduce myself as simply me when I no longer have a title to illustrate to others who I am or what to expect. But it’s what I want to be. Me. It lends itself to attracting a greater acceptance of simply being human.

Coming to terms with actually being old enough to retire from paid employment is hard. I have plans but they don’t always work out how you think they will do they? What if it all goes wrong? There’s no way back from it. No way out now the decision’s made. It’s out of my hands.

Like the man who took all his belongings to pay for a pearl he had been searching his whole life to obtain. He was left with nothing but the pearl – something he had wanted his whole life, spent his whole life working, saving and searching for. Now it belonged to him. But what was the cost? He was living in an empty room with nothing to sit on, sleep on, no lamp to shed light for him, no table to eat from, and no jug to hold water to drink. I wonder if the pearl that had cost him all he owned was worth the price he’d paid for it? (Matthew 13:45-46)

The parables of Jesus teach us a lot of things – with no right or wrong answers. We interpret them by how we feel at any given moment on our life journey. I tried to compare the man giving up all he owned to obtain the pearl as a parallel to my giving up paid work for the freedom to choose how I live out the remainder of my life; the freedom of choice being my pearl of great price. I hope it is worth the cost.

S. Kierkegaard said: ‘Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.’ Therefore, I will watch, wait, listen and be ready to make choices that will enhance and embrace the next phase of my life – this precious pearl that is the gift of retirement.

Just thinking out loud

I’ve been so busy procrastinating (successfully) and learning how to say no (unsuccessfully) to other people’s requests that I haven’t had time to write my December blog… until now. I had planned to write it on the first Sunday of Advent (30th November) but here we are almost approaching the third week! Advent is a good time to stop and think as we begin to prepare… and I wanted to write something about that at the onset of its season – but it slipped by me whilst I was busy enabling others to be ready (through my work in the North Yorkshire Coast Church Circuit – paid and voluntary). It’s as though I’ve been waiting for my own Advent to begin … waiting for my time to be my own so I could simply be still and silent.

Each year as Christmas approaches I like to use the Advent period of waiting to take stock – a little like you do on New Year’s Eve before the onslaught of another year. This year though I’ve been busier than ever and feel I’m waiting for so many things that I have been jumping ahead of myself every step of the way. I’ve barely had time to ponder my faith journey through Advent… because I’m trying to get my head round the reason why, if I am due to retire next year, my job has not slowed down enough for me to prepare for that gift of retirement – my reward for having worked my whole life. I have hardly had time to think straight as I live from one day to the next filling it up with things I love to do. It will be quite nice not having to fit my regular job into that and I am looking forward to a diary that displays things of my own choosing. See? I have jumped ahead of the waiting time again… trying to sort next year out already. Really, there is no need for me to do that because God will have it all in hand anyway.

After an extremely challenging week fraught with anxieties and concerns, I was finally brought to my knees on the evening of 6th December at the community carol service between the villages of Cloughton and Burniston (where I live). The service began with the carol Silent Night’s first verse being sung in German by Revd. Mike Leigh (vicar with a beautiful voice!) then the congregation joined in using English. When a re-enactment of the Christmas Day Truce in the 1st World War was portrayed as a silent sketch by the young people, it really brought it home to me how trivial my anxieties and concerns had actually been that week. I let them go as I listened to a short sermon by Revd. Peter Cross that challenged me even further – to make peace with someone I was experiencing conflict with. Though I have chosen not to discuss this particular issue here, I did come away from the service feeling hopeful.

The following day (7th) was the second Sunday in Advent and, as if to mark the turnaround in my attitude regarding that certain situation, a double rainbow appeared over Cloughton and Burniston villages – arching over the place where the Truce had been re-enacted the previous evening. It felt like the hope of Advent had arrived for me. I believe that when God shines his light into the darkness, like he did that Christmas Day in 1914 and as he did for me at that carol service, there is hope for mankind.

rainbow carol serviceI’ve decided not to prepare for retirement as I know what I want to do with the gift and what God has planned for me will fall into place in its own time. I am going to go with the flow of it and relax, have fun and enjoy what is in store for me, as I enter into that new phase of my life – whenever it arrives.