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
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.
Holy Saturday – The Silence
“human being’s absence from the presence of God, a Deus absconditus, is but a reflection of God’s exile from God’s self” .
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”.
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125
His grace is no longer called for
before meals: farmed fish multiply
without His intercession.
Bread production rises through
disease-resistant grains devised
scientifically to mitigate His faults.
Yet, though we rebelled against Him
like adolescents, uplifted to see
an oppressive father banished –
a bearded hermit – to the desert,
we confess to missing Him at times.
– from ‘Missing God’, by Dennis O’Driscoll
Meditation – Make some space to think
It was over. The disciples, both women and men, sat together; scared, anxious, heart-broken and confused.
The silence which had overcome them these last few days remained. Pain destroys language, and had robbed them from anything to say.. no way to contain what they had experienced. The contrast from the hope at the beginning of the week, through the contours of bewilderment at Jesus rage, wonder at his teaching and a growing sense of unease as fevered clouds loomed over Jerusalem.
And then everything went wrong; blood, nails, tears, despair. Their teacher mocked, their friend broken, there hope dead.
Violence had won, death had overcome love; fear, hatred, domination regained control. The dream of insurrection – the ‘kingdom’ he called it, of love and justice – dashed against cold walls of indifference.
The air around them felt heavy, dark and humid, like a great weight in their midst, a gravity holding them close to the earth.. to this moment, unable to free themselves.. to escape. They were held together in a voiceless waiting…contours of longing allowing the process of silence to interrogate them, and for them to interrogate the silence.
They believed he was the son of God, (whatever that actually meant), but they witnessed God abandon him, they saw it – heard his cries, his torment. they were all orphans now. If the son was dead, was God dead also?
Sometimes in our own lives there are moments of waiting – waiting in silence and waiting for silence to do its work upon us; opening and emptying us. The silence can be full of fear, anxiety, depression. It is all too easy to anticipate an outcome, to pre-suppose God’s blessing, an answer to prayer, or some means of release… we repeat mantras of God’s love even though we don’t believe their denial of reality.
But the moment demands our attention, calls us back to live the experience, whatever it may contain. The emptying place is the divine place… not a shelter from the storm, but the storm itself.
The disciples and friends waited, felt, wept and consoled each other… they longed too for the first light of the new day.. the women poised to anoint Jesus’ corpse… Once done, then they would begin to imagine what to do next.
Spend your own time with the silence. Allow your prayers and thoughts to explore two aspects of God; silence as presence, and silence as absence. What is the texture of both?
Imagine yourself as one of Jesus followers… waiting, but not knowing what comes next… there is no plan.. no ‘tomorrow’, the world has truly stopped. What do you do, how do you pray, (or do you even try?).
Finally, pray – or hold in your thoughts – those you know who are facing an unremitting silence.
Wholy Holy by Marvin Gaye (Gary’s path)
If I Go, I’m Going by Gregory Alan Isakov (Vincent’s path)
All Holy week posts can be found here
Welcome to this series of Lent Reflections.
These reflections can be used in conjunction with the second Lent Album,
‘One Day Like This’, which is intended to evoke both space and mood.
Existentialist thinkers were concerned with how it feels to be alive. An awareness that we are alive—in any situation—reinforces a sense of identity. What do moments in time give to our awareness of who we are, where we fit in the world, in our communities, in the universe?
Holy Week is the most vivid and emotional week of the Church calendar. In it we see Jesus and his followers going through extreme human emotions; celebration, hope, doubt, fear, friendship, betrayal, isolation and surprise—emotions that we all encounter through our lives. The sharp contours of our lives, struggles and joys all contain the touch of divinity.
These daily meditations invite you to reflect upon your moments in time and place. They remind us that extremities of human experience can make us feel fully alive or totally isolated. Yet in sharing our experience, we realise that we are not alone; there is solidarity in humanity, and solidarity with the very human Christ.
Last week’s remembrance service was a very moving time. The Poem at the end of the two-minute silence was by Wendell Berry;
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Psalm 148. The Hidden Prayers
The writing on the wall is Hebrew script and so reads from right to left. The text is Psalm 148, a hymn of exultant praise to God, whereby all of creation is called into worship and delight of the creator,
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
The Psalm on the wall indicates the ongoing prayers and praise of creation, that takes places beneath our radar of awareness, like a chant unheard; it even goes under the more obvious surface images, a subconscious prayer which we only glimpse from time to time.
The more obvious prayers are the Icons; an inheritance from the Orthodox Church, making the invisible visible, opening windows to reveal the presence of God in specific moments, (Theotokos-Incarnation, Pantocrator-Christ, Trinity). So the subconscious is drawn into consciousness, and our prayers are spoken into the warm embracing silence.
The Psalm continues its journey on the wall, and through the door to where?
Further to this idea of the silent praise of creation, children from the school were asked to write hidden prayers for the community, for family, and the world. These have been wrapped up and are no longer visible, and placed on the walls as small parcels. They represent the silent prayers of all people; our hopes, fears and dreams, and they hold the church in a space of silent, longing prayer.
Please do take time to use the prayer station; light a candle, say a prayer or write in the prayer book, take some time to sit quietly, to think, to reflect and allow those unheard prayers carry and strengthen you in solidarity and hope.