The Light Shines in the Darkness – Merry Christmas!

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Tonight we had a beautiful 9 lessons and carols service. One of our readers, Ros, read this poem by Lisa Debney and it was so beautiful I wanted to share it with you along with my good wishes for Christmas and 2017.

Remember that we carry the light of Christ with us into this dark world – the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it!

Find this poem in this book.

Mary by Lisa Debney

Your eyes are open now.

Those eyes which will open the eyes of others.

You study my face and, just for the moment,

though you came for the world,

you are mine and mine alone.

I made you and you made me

and we gaze at each other in equal wonderment.

 

Your eyes are open now,

so dark-bright –

sent from a night full of light and stars –

that I could watch you for ever,

watch your chest rise and fall

as you breathe the cattle-soaked air.

I would like this moment to last for ever,

you are so wonderful to me,

so truly wonderful as you are.

 

But not my will, Lord, but yours be done.

I must hand you over for the world cries out for you,

though I cry out to let you go.

Just for tonight let the future leave us in peace.

Close your eyes, baby.

Close your bright eyes on the dusty darkness of the world.

There is majesty in you but for now let it hide,

let it hide like a gem while you sleep.

 

 

An increase in requests for Renewal of Marriage Vows services

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As far as I am aware, usually in our parish we conduct one or two renewal of vows services a year. These are usually of what I would call the ‘traditional’ kind – a couple celebrating a significant anniversary – often members of the congregation. This year we have noticed a change – we have 6 Renewal of Vows ceremonies booked! And not all of them are of the ‘traditional’ sort.

Apart from the traditional celebration of anniversary kind of service these are some of the others that might be requested now:

  • a renewal of vows after some marital trouble – making a fresh start (for example, after infidelity)
  • the couple were married abroad and want to have a ceremony back home that more can attend
  • the couple want to celebrate their commitment to one another – and have a family get-together

I recently conducted a renewal of vows for a couple celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. Their wedding had been on a beach abroad and not all the family had been able to go – at their renewal their children were present and the wider friends and family. The ceremony was arranged as a surprise by the husband as an anniversary gift for his wife and also provided the opportunity for a big family party. At the party afterwards I spoke to another couple who had had a renewal ceremony last year on their 15th anniversary. When I asked them why they’d decided to do it they said ‘well, so many of our friends are giving up too easily on their relationships. We wanted to show that we are still committed to one another.’

I think it is likely that we will see a surge in interest in Renewal of Vows services for a few reasons:

  • people are looking for opportunities to have family parties – often there feels a big gap, once christenings are done, between weddings and then funerals – it is nice to have a gathering that is celebratory and brings all the generations together
  • since the trend for people marrying abroad, more and more people might come to the decision to have a church-based renewal service to ‘fill the gap’ left by their secular ceremony on the beach with only a couple of friends present
  • celebrations of shorter anniversaries than the traditional (eg. 10 or 15 year anniversaries) are becoming more significant because the divorce rate is so high

You might be able to think of some other reasons as well.

It strikes me that we are extremely well placed in the Church of England to meet this new need – it’s a no-brainer! Celebrating lifelong commitment is something we should be doing. I think we could do more to encourage people to have a Renewal of Vows service.

Some questions I would pose are:

  • if you work in a church, have you seen an increase in requests for Renewal of Vows?
  • should we include renewal of vows services in our statistical returns to the Church of England (in the same way as we record other occasional offices)?
  • should there be some more liturgical resources available to meet these newer requests?

Intercessions based around the Sarum Primer ‘God be in my head’ prayer

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I led the intercessions last night at church and thought I would share them here as they are a set of prayers that could be used in any service based around one of my favourite prayers, the famous Sarum Primer:

God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;
God be at my end
and in my departing

Amen

Feel free to use or adapt the intercessions below for your own context.

Today, to help us pray we are going to use a medieval prayer known as the Sarum Primer which first appeared in 1514. I love using old prayers like this – as we pray think of all those Christians through the centuries that have prayed this same prayer, trusting that God would hear them.

God be in my head
and in my understanding;

Father, our minds are constantly fed from newspapers, tv and conversations with others. Help us to filter what we read about and what we hear to discern what you might be saying. Renew our minds and give us wisdom. Help us be more concerned to understand than be understood. Help us to bring your wisdom to bear in our conversations and dealings with others. Help us as we interpret the times we are living in. We pray for all those involved in leadership in our communities and in governments around the world. Give wisdom and understanding to all those involved in decision making – especially in those situations which will impact the most on the poor and the weak.

God be in my eyes
and in my looking;

Father, as we look around us we see all sorts of things, our senses are assaulted with so many images every day. Thank you for those things we see that bring us joy – like the first flowers of spring or the sunshine in the early morning or the birth of a baby. Help us to look at the world through your eyes. Show us the things we need to see. Show us the people and situations that need your help and prompt us to help if we can. Let our eyes be your eyes.

God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;

Jesus, thank you that you choose to use us to reach the world with your love. Help us when we speak to speak words that build up and don’t tear down. Guide us to think before we speak and consider our words carefully. We pray for all those who have been hurt by something someone has said to them – these wounds can often be more painful than physical wounds. We pray for healing where words have hurt and we ask forgiveness for the times when we have said the wrong thing. Thank you for the words of love you speak to us. Speak through us, Lord we pray, that people might know your love in their lives.

God be in my heart
and in my thinking;

Lord, lots of things dominate our thoughts. Many of these things are the worries we have for friends or family. We lift to you now those people and situations that are on our minds. We invite you to intervene in these situations. Help us to trust that you hear our prayers. Lift the burdens we are carrying in our hearts and help us to know that your burden is light. Help us to let go of our anxieties and hand over our lives to your control.

God be at my end
and in my departing

Father, we pray for all those coming to an ending. For those who are coming to the end of their lives – we pray for their carers and families. We pray for those who are finishing a project, or coming to the end of a job and for those preparing for retirement. Be with us in our endings and remind us that each day is a new beginning with you.

So as we go into a new week, let us pray together the prayer from the Sarem Primer:

God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart
and in my thinking;
God be at my end
and in my departing

Amen

A service on Twitter? How does that work then?

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Twitter Remembrance Service

Yesterday a remembrance day service was held on Twitter at 10.15am (UK time). The service will be repeated tomorrow at the same time. It was the brainchild of James Thomas, a Methodist from Cardiff who got together with the Rev Joanne Cox (who I had the pleasure of meeting at Greenbelt this year) to make it happen.

Lots of people look at me with bemusement when I enthuse about Twitter. Even more so when I enthuse about Twitter’s application and uses in Church-based activities. So I thought this Remembrance service would make a good ‘case study’ of how powerful Twitter can be. The way it worked was that a Twitter account was set up for the service: @poppy_tweet. Then at 10.15, the tweets (140 character-long messages – like texts) started. I think the majority of these tweets were written before the event and carefully ordered – just in the way one would plan a service of worship in the normal way. Anyone could choose to view the tweets from @poppy_tweet, the tweets came in a measured way, giving the ‘viewer’ enough time to read, reflect and pray. The whole service took about one hour. You will see that there were three main people tweeting as part of the service: @poppy_tweet, @revjoannecox (who tweeted the sermon) and @jhoncooper who shared a meditation on peace. Other people took part by tweeting with different ‘hashtags’ – the main ones being #weremember and #wewillrememberthem – these hashtags work as links on Twitter – if you click on one on Twitter you will see all the tweets containing that hashtag – it’s a way of tracking topics on Twitter.

Order of service

I reproduce the main tweets of the service below. This doesn’t completely give you an idea of how it works but hopefully you can see how well put together the service was, I have put in the videos that were referred to in the service at the appropriate points:

     
 

The service continued with people tweeting the names (and sometimes rank) of those they wanted to remember as part of this online act of remembrance. It was very moving seeing all the tweets being shared about grandparents, parents and more recent soldiers who have died in service of their country.

I applaud the people who put this together and made it happen – in my opinion, a brilliant way to engage people in an old act of worship in a new way.

Press Coverage

Here are some of the major press articles written so far about the Twitter Remembrance service:

BBC News:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15684260

Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/nov/10/twitter-remembrance-day-service

Ekklesia:

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/15697

Christian Today:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/methodist.youth.take.to.twitter.for.remembrance.services/28877.htm

Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/11/twitter-remembrance-service_n_1087730.html?1321006061&ref=uk-tech&ref=uk

 

 

Free liturgy download for Easter Sunday

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Wanting to celebrate Easter with a few people outside early Sunday morning? Here is a simple short liturgy I wrote that is based on the resurrection accounts in the gospels. Free to download here: http://issuu.com/Vahva/docs/easter_sunday_liturgy_2010

Written in 2010:

Happy Easter to you! I hope you had a joyful Easter celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. We had a nice simple communion service down at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds on Sunday morning.