Imagination

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Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

~ John O’Donohue ~
[Excerpt from ‘For The Traveller’ in Benedictus 2007]

Prayers On The Way – Martin Stewart

I have been experimenting this year on how I frame the prayers for congregational worship.  I’ve been calling the early prayers in the service of worship ‘Prayers on the way’ as a way of finding a language for what is going on for those who are strangers to some of the old language, and those of us who are bored by some of that stuff!  And I’ve been calling the prayers in the later parts of the service ‘Prayers for the road’.  The feedback from people has been positive, though quite a few others seem not to have noticed!

I wonder sometimes about what we lose when we step back from preparing prayers by either making them up in the moment, or borrowing  prayers from other sources.  Both practices, of course, have their place.  The prayers that rise up in the moment can be profound, but they risk carelessness in language and theology, and sameness in content. The prayers others have crafted can draw on a wonderful collection of prayers from those who have prayed before us and those who pray around us, but if not carefully curated and adapted, they risk being in a language and style that is far from the world of the people before us.  Both styles can also encourage a kind of laziness, where those who prepare worship simply bounce off for whatever is in their head or reach uncritically for whatever resource they can find to rescue them. Continue reading

Anzac Day Reflections

Editorial Introduction by Martin Stewart

Recently I purchased a collection of poems and photographs from World War One A Corner of a Foreign Field.  The Daily Mail collection of photographs are haunting, and the poems are from the frontline and the backline, including the perspective of the women in the munitions factories and the women barely married receiving the dreaded visit and letter.

I remember studying poems by Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brook, and Siegfried Sassoon at high school.  Continue reading

Easter Seeing

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[Clouds over Mt Hay Station, Lake Tekapo – Martin Stewart]

I’m thinking about the John 20:1-18 text and the references to seeing and believing, along with the John 20:29 beatitude “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We fall into the category of the beatitude.  We have not laid our eyes on him.  Yet…

There seems to be a lot of pressure on us these days to have to prove things. Continue reading

The Rhythm of Light’s Disappearance – Martin Stewart

The Rhythm of Light’s Disappearance

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Realise:
each month for three nights the moon disappears
a darkness comes over to envelope us

Trust:
this interval of no light has a rhythm
this time is not one to fear

Venture:
touch what comes to greet you
grasp what has dared to appear
embrace what has once been avoided

For a faith that endures is a faith that engages

Observe:
even on those nights of no moon
the moon is still there
it is only we who behave
as if the lack of reflection means an absence

A less regulatory church – Martin Stewart

I wonder a lot about how we are going to get through this season of decline in the church.
We’ve been told for long enough that emerging generations of Christians do not relate to or own denominational distinctiveness – they relate to a community of living, kind and faithful people.  In light of this, I think we have to loosen up and be more enabling of what these people are saying to us!  I figure that a continuation of our regulatory approach to things will not help here.  The Book of Order will not save us!  Continue reading

Vaughan Park Retreats

2017 Retreat Programme

Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre in Long Bay, Auckland has recently launched its Retreat Programme for 2017. Vaughan Park is a special place to go on retreat – a place of hospitality, conversation, healing and spiritual encounter. We would love to welcome people to this sacred space.

Over the years, we have enjoyed the company of many people from the PCANZ who have come to stay or held meetings at Vaughan Park. Might it be possible for Vaughan Park and the Retreat Programme to be mentioned in the next Candour blog with a link to the Programme? We think that there may be some Retreats that would be of interest to your readers.

If there is any further information we can help you with, please let us know.

Thank you for your help and support.

Blessings on your day,

February and March:

For full details and to register please click on the linked retreat heading that you are interested in.

email@vaughanpark.org.nz

Christmas Candour

A few final thoughts for the year…

  1. 25th. This year is so good – a Sunday Christmas… almost a whole week between last Sunday and Christmas Eve. And, no meetings! Glory to God in the Highest!  Could we look to Sunday-ising Christmas?
  2. Summer heat. Some emperor decreed that we should celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December but he failed to take into account the implications for people from the other hemisphere. Silly man!  Actually, I don’t even think he knew there was another hemisphere!
    I quite like the lights and the wrapped up warm idea of a winter Christmas but can’t be bothered going to the other hemisphere to experience it and missing out on summer here!  I also think that some separation of Christmas from summer holidays and school starting would be more helpful for families struggling to pay all the bills. If it wasn’t for strawberries and raspberries I would advocate for a June Christmas celebration in NZ.
    Lynne Barb has offered some thoughtful things about a southern hemisphere Christmas here: http://www.lynnebaab.com/blog/some-christmas-thoughts-from-the-souther
  3. Timing. I feel like I have had the best year of my life – truly, I have had a lot of fun and inspiration – new friendships, writing, poems, tramping, an Australian adventure, my band getting together after 34 years, big exciting developments in our church life, and my daughter Hana getting engaged to our dear friend Will. But I got the timing wrong. I conked out two weeks ago and now I am limping to Christmas.  I have no complaints though – being in a team ministry has made it possible to get through a lot of things, but I’m done.  I hope the stuff for Christmas passes muster for I am drawing very deeply from the well!
    4.  Rest.  Anne and I have holidays starting mid-January, so we are holding the fort until then.  Fortunately, it is usually a slow patch, and there are no meetings scheduled (I wonder what it will be like to have a whole string of evenings off!).  We need the rest, and it looks like it will come to us.  May it also come to you and your loved ones.  Maybe that is the best thing about a summer Christmas, we work it hard until Christmas Day and then the NZ world stops, takes a breath and kicks off its shoes.  So…

    May the barbeque not run out of gas.
    May the car not break down or the tent rip.
    May the phone not ring with sad tidings.
    May you find beautiful spaces to re-create and re-imagine in.
    May the company you keep be light and friendly.
    May the earth not shake, the seas not roar, nor your skin burn.
    May your jandaled feet not blister or crack.
    May the cool air in the evenings refresh you.
    May the challenges of next year come slowly.
    And may the God who graces us in Jesus Christ,
    so grace you that your cup regularly overflows!

 

Advent Sunday Prayer

So here is a prayer I have prepared for Advent Sunday tomorrow…

Introduction:
It is Advent Sunday – we start the Christian year again
With Advent is the invitation to deeper engagement
What has been said before will be said again,
but with two significant differences:
firstly, the world is not as it was before
– it is better and it is worse, that is the nature of the world
and secondly, we haven’t been who we are before
– we are always at the edge of growing, and deepening our engagement with the dynamics of God’s grace at work in us…

so we pray

As the late spring winds blow
and test the hold that the new leaves have on the branches,
so God we invite your spirit-presence into our lives
and the lives of those about us.

God we do not seek you as a comfort-blanket under which we can hide,
no, we invite your turbulent love to sweep over us
and this land, and this world in need.

Stir us, enliven us, engage us,
that in this season of Advent
we will hear again, as if for the first time,
of your invitation to live the transformed life.

You come in Jesus Christ.
We come in response.

You call us to life in all its fullness.
But we confess that we almost always respond in our own way,
from our places of comfort and resistance, and consequently,
with lowered expectations of what your fullness can be.

Forgive us, we pray,
forgive us for the way that we so often hear your call
and so often have our hearts stirred,
but before too long we have resorted to our old habits
and given into our divided loyalties.

We invite your turbulent love to sweep over us.
We invite your Living Word to stop us in our tracks.
We invite your Spirit-presence into the corridors of our resistance
to blow away the dust and cobwebs of our fear-filled patterns of life,
that we might hear the call from the deep
and respond anew with vigour and passion,
to the story of you, O God, living among us full of grace and truth.

And this is God’s word to us… from 2 Corinthians 5:17
“… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

This is what God pronounces for us.
This is the life that God creates in us.
This is the promise that comes to us today in Jesus Christ.
And God’s Spirit enables us to live into this new creation.

God, hear us as we hear your call
and respond in love as a forgiven and renewed people,
in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Advent & Christmas Prayers

I wonder if you have some prayers that you have written or found that went well that we could share over the next few weeks as the Christmas season draws near?

Why not pop them in or send them to me martin(at)villagechurch.nz and I can load them.

I do know that there are some wonderful wordsmiths among you – how about flicking through some of your resources and sharing some of them – it might help us all as we work things up and look for something fresh!

I found this prayer that I had used in 2005:

A Franciscan Christmas Blessing for Justice and Peace
December 20, 2005

May God bless you with discomfort…
at easy answers, hard hearts,
half-truths ,and superficial relationships.
May God bless you so that you may live
from deep within your heart
where God’s Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with anger…
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people.
May God bless you so that you may
work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
May God bless you so that you
may reach out your hand
to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with
enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference
in this world, in your neighborhood,
so that you will courageously try
what you don’t think you can do, but,
in Jesus Christ you’ll have all the strength necessary.

May God bless you to fearlessly
speak out about injustice,
unjust laws, corrupt politicians,
unjust and cruel treatment of prisoners,
and senseless wars,
genocides, starvations, and poverty that is so pervasive.

May God bless you that you remember
we are all called
to continue God’s redemptive work
of love and healing
in God’s place, in and through God’s name,
in God’s Spirit, continually creating
and breathing new life and grace
into everything and everyone we touch.

Source: “Troubadour: A Missionary Magazine”
published by the Franciscan Missionary Society, Liverpool, UK: Spring 2005.