Week of Accompanied Prayer – 10-15 June

What is a Week of Accompanied Prayer?
• a daily half-hour meeting with an experienced prayer guide.
• and a daily time of prayer (aiming at 20-30 minutes).

Who is it for?
• Christians who want to deepen their prayer life.
• anyone unsure of belief, but willing to explore prayer.
Either way, it is for any generous soul willing to
commit to the elements of the week!

What is in the programme?
As well praying for up to 30 minutes each day and meeting with your prayer
guide, there are introductory and closing meetings with helpful suggestions
about how to get the most out of the week.

There will also be optional evening workshops (open to non-participants);
• prayer and creativity
• the practice of living fully in the present
• discernment and decision making.

Why do it?
When we are generous, God is more so! We encounter a God who loves and
calls us: it can be a great help in making or confirming decisions, big or small.

How much does it cost?
We ask for a contribution of £20 from participants. (If this is a problem, talk to
one of the organisers and we’ll work something out).
Please contact Ali Marshall, Mark Laynesmith
or Christine Bainbridge, via the Parish Office


Staying Afloat

During the Soviet era in Russia many churches were put to alternative uses.  One that particularly stood out for me was a church that was converted into a swimming pool.  The dim lighting, the pictures of saints on the walls, the deep blue of a ceiling painted with stars, all contributed to an atmospheric swim.  The water in the pool was pleasantly warm.  Those swimming there commented on how rested and refreshed they felt after leaving.  Although I would not be pressing for our churches to become swimming pools (and that church in Russia has now been restored to its original use) I think that the image of the church as swimming pool is surprisingly apt.  At its best it’s a place where we can let go of some of our protective layers and take delight in allowing God’s love to bear our weight, just as water does when we swim.  Peace can seep into our hearts and minds, melting our worries and putting us in touch with a bigger picture where not everything depends on us.

Floating in God’s love requires practice in letting go.  We don’t necessarily trust the water to bear our weight.  We have to test it.  Someone may have to help us.  In the same way the church can encourage us to try out God’s love and to practise trusting in him as someone who loves us.  Our songs and prayers, our receiving bread and wine all encourage this.  They can lead us to experiment with bringing our whole selves to God, warts and all, trusting that he welcomes us as we are.

We can join with one of the saints, who addressed God as follows; ‘Dear Lord, you are a deep sea, into which the deeper I enter, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek…my soul delights in you, Eternal Trinity, Sea of Peace’.  Catherine of Siena

May we, like St Catherine, discover that ocean of God’s love and learn to revel in it.


Christine Bainbridge

Photo courtesy of Jo White

Moments from a Life … The Stations of the Cross 2018

Thanks to everyone who came and joined in with our Stations of the Cross meditation for Good Friday 2018.

This installation was entitled ‘Moments from a Life’ and was intended to reveal a hint at both Jesus’ early memories, his mother, his father’s carpentry tools, sawdust everywhere; .. alongside these were his final moments marked by the stations of the cross.
Within that, paints and brushes allude to an artistic hand.. maybe the painter of the stations, maybe the artistry of our own lives.. the brush strokes, textures, hints and shades.. and the inevitable messiness and goodness of it all.

The music always provokes some intrigue… here is a list from which music was layered into the service… you way want to explore;

Samuel Barber – String Quartet in B Minor, Op 11
Dreadzone – A Canterbury Tale
Brian Eno – Lux
Brian Eno – Music for Airports
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Sea of Vapours
Gabriel Fauré – Requiem, Op. 48; 2. Offertoire
Henryk Gorecki – Totus Tuus
Hamlet Gonashvili – Tsintskaro
Jam & Spoon – Ancient Dream
The Late Late Service – Holy Space
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares – Pritouritze Planinata
Opik – Travelling Without Moving
Arvo Part – Fratres
Arvo Part – Spiegel im Spiegel
Arvo Part – Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten
Jocelyn Pook – Desh: Hallelujah
Mark Pritchard – Beautiful People
Steve Reich – Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ
Hildegard von Bingen, Guy Sigsworth – O Beata Infantia Alio Modo
Hildegard von Bingen, Guy Sigsworth – O Virtus Sapienta
John Tavener – Song for Athene
John Tavener – The Lamb
TTU – One Thousand Years
Underworld – To Heal




Easter Services 2018

Please join us this Holy Week as we follow the Passion of Jesus’ last few days.

Sunday 25 March – Palm Sunday Service.

Thursday 29th March – Maundy Thursday – Holy Communion and Stripping of the Altar.

Friday 30th March – Reflective service on the stations of the cross.

Sunday 1st April – Easter Day, Family Service


Lent Film Series begins

Once again the Lent Film Series will explore the power and challenge of great film-making. This year our films all speak to the theme of dreams… what dreams drive us as humans? What dreams disapoint? Are dreams messages from the
soul or the unconcious? How do we exist within our own dreams?

Five excellent films are showing;

Loving Vincent    February 22

On Body and Soul    (snowed off)  now re-scheduled for 12 April

The Death of Stalin    March 8

God’s Own Country    March 15

The Florida Project     March 22

All showings in the Church Gallery.
7.30 Doors open  8.00pm Start
Entrance Free

Film Discussion Meal   April 19th



During the week 1-10 September we will be hosting a ‘pop-up festival’ in East Reading, which will attempt to bring together and explore various issues pertinent to community life and our humanity. The festival is entitled ‘Dazzle’ – illuminated by the darkness.

For many people, current issues the world is facing seem overwhelming; the fast-paced nature of capitalism and hungry consumerism raises many challenges politically, socially and philosophically. For those at the wrong end, or outside, the social scale the prospects seem bleak and dark.

Outrider Anthems is currently running a year-long ‘Festival of the Dark’ in Reading, with the support of Arts Council England. The Festival of the Dark has sought to explore the concept of Darkness through art, installation, drama and discussion. The hope is to discover the positive aspects of embracing darkness and shadow; to consider ways that society and communities may be enriched.

Dazzle has emerged in ‘conversation’ with these themes in order to explore what darkness means for science, art, theology, philosophy and culture. It aims to be a festival of ideas and practice. Some of our conversations will include ‘hidden’ ideas of guerrilla gardening, community enrichment and permaculture.

Our keynote speaker earlier in the week is Kate Raworth, author of the influential Doughnut Economy; and other contributors will probe the philosophical, scientific, artistic, poetic and social aspects of Darkness.

On Saturday 9th we will host a Symposium on Darkness, asking what this word means for Scientists, Artists, Educators, Philosophers and Theologians. It will be a ‘grown up conversation’ which allows for the insights of one forum to crossover with others. We are looking forward to this!

Speakers include,

Kester Brewin on Mutiny!
Alison Webster on Transgression
Colin Heber-Percy on Darkness, Mystery and Art
Helen Bilton on Upturning Education
Vincent Gardner on Dogs**t Theology
Gary Collins on Desire
others to be confirmed, including ‘a man with bees’

Further details regarding Outrider Anthems and the Festival of the Dark are available at

Timetable Dazzle-rev1The Timetable poster is available here





Please spread the word….

Dan Flavin

The Surface of God

Gary’s Essay for his 1st Eucharist at St John & St Stephen’s. 25 June 2017

Dan Flavin – The Surface of God

Light and Nothingness
Dan Flavin’s simple yet powerfully evocative light installations are beguiling to the eye and the senses. His fluorescent tubes poised at geometric angles evoke a new awareness of our surroundings. Yet Flavin describes these pop-art works as simple and without depth, ‘they are only surface, don’t look for meaning.’

Only surface, without meaning?… yet look again; what a surface is revealed! These light-works intensify the everyday into an experience of oddness; light, shadow, texture and silhouette become vividly re-imagined or re-encountered through the saturation of colour. The surface reveals and is revealed; the viewer is immersed and reintroduced to a moment of presence in the world, and re-acquainted with the material and texture of the everyday.

Maybe in the Eucharist/Holy Communion we see something of this; Christ as ‘the surface of God’ is revealed and revealing, drawing us to an awareness of ‘the other’ as divine and human; clothed in nature and wonder, branch and leaf. We are invited to feast on Christ – the one who draws all things together.

Myth and symbol.
Post/modernity opens a world of truth beyond the rational and to look deeper at myth and symbol; through the living metaphors of baptismal water and the bread and wine of Eucharist we are caught up into the revelation and salvation of God incarnated in our mortal flesh.

Sacramental action is encountered in symbolic or mythic narrative. ‘The crucial function of myth is to make sacred history.’ This Eucharistic liturgy embodies a reality made real within our rehearsal, yet the mythic form remains fluid, undergoing processes of evocation, elaboration and interrogation.

Embracing otherness.
Although Eucharist can represent something reassuringly familiar it also remains deeply strange; but this strangeness may be the point! ‘Despite our attempts to contextualise worship in culture, communion points us beyond our present context, it relativises our best efforts to be relevant’.
‘In every religion’, Chauvet suggests, ‘one observes a break between the ritual “scene” and the “scene” of ordinary life’. To participate fully in the symbolic language and action of the Eucharist requires ‘a language that breaks away from the ordinary’. Ward calls this ‘de-contextualisation’, the point where contextual theology bows and gives way to the otherness of sacramental activity – to let the abstract to be abstract.

Agape – hospitality and encounter.
Yet at its heart Eucharist remains a simple meal – an agape – and simple hospitality is disarming. The table becomes a place of radical welcome; as in Babette’s Feast it ‘interrupts the narrative’, announcing joy in places of hostility. ‘Meeting at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate.’

Here then, the communal body of Christ is a dynamic in-between-ness of the giving, receiving, and charitable sharing of God’s gift. Divine and human desires enter into a deep sense of intimacy and reciprocity in this Holy Communion. Community is nurtured.

So the inclusive feast of a simple agape meal honours the coded symbols of the ritual, whilst also subverting them. The symbolic ‘code’ of Eucharist is really no code at all, presence gives way to absence as our multi-faceted interpretations allude to its continuing non-containability.

Any time you’re on the earth, kiss me.
So we join together this morning; prayers rise like incense, bodies move and bow; voices sing and silence is known; heaven meets us in our flesh. Like the light of Flavin’s art – the strangeness makes our senses come alive – in taste, touch, sight and sound. We are reminded that the work of our hands, the struggles of life, and the gifts of God meet through earth, flesh, wheat and grape – making bread and wine divine. The blessing of God is within human endeavour; a real presence in material things.

So come, taste and see; all are welcome.




  • Img Copyright. David Urbanke 2013.