Away Day

I have just returned from leading our combined  house group’s away day, which was held at the House of the Open Door, Childswickham, near Evesham. What a glorious day this has been in every way. The venue is stunning and I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for somewhere for a retreat. We were also blessed with beautiful weather and the gardens were in full bloom. The food was excellent and so was the service.

Our day explored the themes of practical and spiritual hospitality through the story of Martha and Mary and as we journeyed through the day we engaged with how these two aspects of hospitality inform our mission as house groups.

A good day was had by all, so good in fact that we have a date in the diary for next year to do this again!

Blessings, Jayne

Our celebrations draw to a close

And so our month of celebration for our 140th anniversary at Tewkesbury Methodist Church has drawn to a close. During the month we have had coffee mornings, cream teas and a full month of open church for our exhibition of photos and the glorious display of embroidered banners collectively entitled ‘The Servant King’ by renowned textile artist Jacqui Parkinson. We also shared in a quiet communion on the actual day of the anniversary which was 5th June.

Last Sunday, the Chair of District, Reverend Dr Johnathan Pye, led our service followed by afternoon tea and then an evening service led by yours truly in which the singing virtually raised the roof. It was a wonderfully joyous and uplifting day full of friendship, fellowship and thanksgiving for the many blessings we enjoy at TMC.

Thank you to everyone who came during this time to help us celebrate.

The manse garden

 

 

It’s been a glorious summer so far and no where has that been more evident than in the manse garden which is simply stunning at the moment. I only wish my blog had the capacity to allow you to enjoy the fragrance that I am able to enjoy every time I open the patio door, especially early morning and late evening.

Somebody said  to me, just this week, ‘It is so easy to praise God for creation at this time of year’. And I have to agree, everywhere I look at the moment, as I make my way through the lanes of rural Gloucestershire, there is an abundance of life in nature. It really does seem that all cry out in praise, and none sing their praise more beautifully than the birds own evensong in the warmth of a summers evening.  We humans cannot even begin to recreate such sights and sounds and fragrances – our pictures, poetry and songs pale into insignificance compared with God’s infinite, creative, divine mystery.

With that said, I still could not resist posting some pictures of the manse garden. It is a stunning place to be still and reflect on God’s presence and a wonderful, constantly changing feast for the senses.

Heart of the Matter

pexels-photo-1173576A post on facebook yesterday suggested that if we did away with religion then all the worlds problems would be solved.  Admittedly we are seeing a surge of extreme religious views right now and though that may be in the form of the right wing narrow perspectives, religion is not the cause! At the core of extremism is a particular mindset. It is a mindset that can only think in black or white, it has no capacity to have empathic understanding and it cannot see the world through the eyes of another. As an ex psychiatric nurse I am reminded of learning how certain mindsets are   ‘resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact’ and how attempts to change such minds through these means will prove impossible.

But it is the mindset itself that is the problem. It is to be found in certain groups within all religions, as well as in atheism,  in politics, in environmentalism, in science and in many other groups.  Many years ago I was friends with an image consultant who trained to become a colour analyst. She would analyse a person’s skin and hair tones and match them with one of four categories named Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, she would then be able to give a full palate of colours (tones and hues) that the person could wear and those that must be avoided at all costs.  I was one of her Guinea Pigs when she was in training and was deemed to be Autumn. From that point on for me to  wear anything other than the range on the Autumn swatch became a real problem for her. If we met up and I was not  dressed according to the rules she would be upset and hurt, she would see such rebellion almost as a personal attack or a slight against her professional skill.  My choice was either to comply with the rules and feel very oppressed or to rebel and suffer the consequences. In the end we went our separate ways. Many years later I learnt that this person had had a religious conversion and was now bringing that same mindset to a leadership role in a religious context.

Essentially it is an extreme form of dual consciousness, this or that, black or white, right or wrong and nothing in between. It happens when we see that the external world of form is the only world in which we exist and therefore perceive that the only way to survive is to exert our control over it. It is a way of thinking that fails to understand the deeper, inner consciousness where we are all one, all connected and that to destroy, oppress, or violate another is ultimately to do these things to ourselves.

The commandment to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and to love your neighbour as self, is not a rule bound diktat. It is a formula!  To love God in this way is to discover that God is not an external force as religion traditionally teaches, but a consciousness of union to be found within our own soul. It brings into alignment our heart and mind and soul with the energy of a Love that permeates all things so that we cannot fail to understand our connectedness. As we grow towards  union with this energy our dualistic way of thinking begins to dissolve and with it our egotistical vision of self survival at all costs. Mystics of all traditions understand that our human made religions, dualistic in nature, are merely inadequate, surface projections of a a deeper single truth that holds us all.

Many decisions and rulings made this last week, from The Whitehouse to the House of Bishops, all bear their own brand of oppression born of dualistic consciousness. They can have no credibility as  reflecting the mind of God – we know that because the outcomes have been so divisive.

But, to  ‘do away with religion’ will not necessarily solve our problems, rather getting religion to let go of its dualistic, and therefore egotistical, focus and to understand the deeper mystery that lies within all is a really good place for it to  focus its teaching.

But why are we here? Why have we arrived at a place in our world when our very existence is threatened at our own hands? Well if we are so duped that the so called ‘reality’ of our external world is the only reality then the trajectory towards extreme dualism is the only possible direction of travel. Transformation will come when we discover the glorious truth that lies within each us and, if  we did but know it, the longing of every soul.

Anthony Duncan points to a stark warning given by the Kalahari bushmen as follows:

‘Western man seems to have fallen collectively into that state most feared of all by his African brothers – he has lost his soul. And even if he has not quite lost it yet, then a great many individuals among the multitude are in extreme anxiety lest he shall finally and irrevocably do so’.

If religion cannot rise to the challenge of enabling us to rediscover our soul then perhaps it it is best to ‘do away with it’ after all  – for in truth it is difficult to see what other purpose it is meant to serve.

New start at Hartpury Methodist Church

 

Yesterday I went along to the new start of the Saturday lunch club at Hartpury MC. It has not been running for several months owing to the work being carried out to fit a whole new kitchen; however yesterday saw the lunch club relaunched and I am glad to report it was very well supported.

The new kitchen is wonderful though it may take another week or so to get used to all the mod cons.

The work continues as the school room is now to also undergo a refurbishment and later in the year we will have a celebration launch of our shiny new facilities.

The lunch club runs every first Saturday of the month and cost £4 for a 3 course meal. All are welcome

Jayne

Catching up

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Wisteria in Apperley, Gloucestershire

Well it seems such a while since I was able to make it to my blog. Where has the last few months gone. I think I was overambitious to think that I could keep up a weekly slot during a very busy period and whilst still trying to find my way around. Anyway I am back now and rather more settled and in control having found out who is who and what is where so I am going to make a new commitment now to keeping a regular slot here.

Since I last blogged we have had lent in which we shared with the Anglican Church in Apperley exploring frontline ministry. The sessions went really well and I do so enjoy working ecumenically.

Holy week was a busy time for us in the section where I led services and reflections at various churches with 3 on Easter day at Tewkesbury, Hartpury and Tibberton respectively. Across Pentecost and Trinity I have been preaching further afield in our circuit namely in our Cheltenham churches and now here we are, no back in ordinary time.

I currently have a student minister, Rachel,  on placement with me in Tewkesbury Methodist Church, I thoroughly enjoy students coming to work alongside me..I find it good discipline for me –  a good way of keeping me on my toes! Rachel and I are currently in the process of planning the programme of events for our 140th Anniversary at Tewkesbury Methodist Church…the official opening day being 5th June but our day of celebration will be Sunday 24th, though we are open daily for our exhibition. There will also be coffee as usual in the mornings on saturdays as well as cream teas. It would be lovely to see you if you can come along at any point.

There have been some slight changes in the section which I will report in future blogs this will mean I will cease to be minister of some of my churches but will take on a slightly larger church elsewhere in the vicinity but my ministry in TMC will remain unchanged.

So there we are. A very quick summary. As I said, I feel in a better position now to maintain a weekly blog so watch out for updates.

Blessings, Jayne