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  • Resurrection Joy

    This morning's service was a delight to lead - we had to get out extra chairs as there were 30 of us, despite several being absent, including one or two infrequent folk.  I had 30 plastic eggs containing mini-eggs to give away - I must have known!

    At the start of the service we had the opportunity to express our thoughts and feelings on white paper eggs that were gathered with the money offering and laid at the foot of a life-height cross in the centre of the circle of chairs.  Some named people on their hearts, some wrote expressions of praise, several expressed the tensions that they felt.  Here are some of the pairings, some slightly rephrased.

    Anxiety and optimism

    Worry and contentment

    Fear and gratitude

    Spiritual fulfilment and physical unwellness

    Fear and trust

    Numbness and hopefulness


    Had I read these before I had preached, I wouldn't have needed to, for they say all that is needful to hear: resurrection joy is what allows us to hold these tensions knowing that God is with us in the struggles and ahead of us in the promise.

    I hope my sermon engaged these people in their need and vulnerability, honesty and strength; I hope that their resurrection joy will sustain them on the path ahead.


    Christ is risen - we believe, Lord help our unbelief.

  • Holy Saturday

    Easter Saturday, Holy Saturday, call it what you will, it is the day of the Easter weekend that Christians don't know what to do with.  (I know that's abysmal sentence structure but you know what I mean).  My own best/worst Holy Saturday was in 2001 when I worked with an RC church and actually experienced something of its real desolation.  Yet, lest we be too hard on ourselves, part of the problem is that we know the happy ending and can't pretend otherwise - Holy Saturday can only be truly experienced in our own places of not knowing.

    This year, Holy Saturday is significant in my little church in at least two ways.

    I have one family in the waiting phase - a loved one has died but the funeral cannot take place until 'after the feast.'  This may have been an elderly relative whose life was drawing imperceptibly closer to its end, but the helplessness and enforced waiting are no less than had a young person been snatched in the prime of life.

    I also have a scattering of ashes service to take around midday.  We will gather underneath a leaden sky in a graveyard first used almost three centuries ago to plant a tree and liberate the ashes of someone who died last year.  There has been a long wait for this, a searching for a 'right time' when those who wish to share can be present, a searching for how to release the last tangible link with a wife and mother who was indeed snatched away at a fairly young age.

    Today will be a holy Saturday, a God-space for these two families.  For one there is the knowledge that, symbolically anyway, the Marys wait with them; for the other there is the moment of 'it is finished' as they release the past, trust in the future promises of God and live the present.

    For neither family will Holy Saturday be the same as before - nor will it for me.  As I add more layers of experience and, hopefully, understanding, this day becomes more not less significant and its confusing silence more profound.

  • Too Good to Keep Quiet

    This morning's Encounter Easter event was simply splendid, truly marvellous, totally wonderful, etc. etc.  At least a hundred people came along during the course of the morning, of whom around 50 were children.  Apart from our own impromptu Good Friday earthquake when a table collapsed destroying several miniature Easter gardens (which we reconstructed with amazing speed!) everything went superbly well.

    IMG_0041.JPGThe labyrinth (borrowed from EMBA) was walked by at least a dozen adults and about half a dozen children.  Although a couple of lads thought it was fun just to walk all over the place, most really entered into it, and it was quite moving to see a little girl of around four carefully carry her pebble to the cross at the centre.

    Having prepared all the stations it was lovely to see it all set up - even if the mat was about 6" too wide for the space - and surprisingly moving to walk it myself.  Those who took part seemed to find it a helpful means of reflection/meditation/prayer and worth repeating on another occasion.

    The children had a whale of a time making cards, miniature gardens, chocolate nests and clay crosses.  The parents had a lovely time chilling out over tea/coffee and hot cross buns.  A lot of the church folk arrived just in time for the 'service' (mutter) but enough came earlier and enjoyed the ambiance of the morning.

    IMG_0060.JPGWe ended the morning with everyone gathered in a sort of circle around an enormous free standing cross (from the Meths) for an act of worship led by the vicar.  We sang two songs that are exclusive to us!  We are blessed to have a wonderful Anglican woman, whose life's work was teaching people how to teach primary school music, who can compose child friendly songs and tunes at the drop of a hat.  Here she is, teaching us the actions to her latest song 'I love you so much' which we sang accompanied by piano accordion and double bass.

    “I love you so much”, Jesus told his disciples,

    “For just as the Father loved me, I love you.

    “I love you so much.  You must love one another

    “As I have loved you.”

    “I love you so much”, Jesus told his disciples,

    “For just as the Father loved me, I love you.

    “I love you so much.  You must love one another

    “As I have loved you.”

    “I love you so much.” This is Jesus’s message,

    With arms stretched out wide on the cross on the hill.

    “So love one another, and be my disciples,

    For I love you still.”

    “I love you so much”, Jesus told his disciples,

    “For just as the Father loved me, I love you.

    “I love you so much.  You must love one another

    “As I have loved you.”


    “I love you so much.” You can read all about it

    In John chapter fifteen verse twelve and verse nine.

    “Then love one another if you want to be true

    “Disciples of mine.”

    “I love you so much”, Jesus told his disciples,

    “For just as the Father loved me, I love you.

    “I love you so much.  You must love one another

    “As I have loved you.”

    Then lift the cross higher and worship Lord Jesus,

    His arms out to welcome, his heart full of love,

    And, by your example, help others to follow

    Our Saviour above.

    “I love you so much”, Jesus told his disciples,

    “For just as the Father loved me, I love you.

    “I love you so much.  You must love one another

    “As I have loved you.”

    words and music (c) Hazel Hudson 2009


    Everyone had a good morning: children were entertained for free and went home laden with things they'd made, adults were given space to relax or reflect; everyone had an encounter with Easter.  Job done - it is accomplished - how true!


  • And so to Easter

    All is now as ready as it'll ever be for the Easter services and events.  This is good, and I am looking forward to entering into the experiences on offer - both leading and receiving.  Then it is a week of much needed R&R - three days walking a 50 mile midlands trail from Burton to Telford (as one does) hopefully with some interesting industrial archaeology along the way and then three days in Manchester at the university which is starting to feel like the biggest blag I've ever done in my entire life.  I am intending to turn my 'presentation' slot into more of a discussion session and play with some ideas around literary theories of authors and readers, theology by journalling and the tensions of accessibility and academic language - if that sounds like I know what I'm talking about , it is merely demonstration of the whole language game malarchy I want to play around with!  I have a feeling the end result will either amaze me by being quite clever or will be the biggest load of twaddle you ever did see.  Anyway, at some point between now and Sunday I need to move from 'here's my bit of playful reflection' to something that will engage useful discussion.

    Whatever you are up to over Easter I hope it is blessed.

    For those who are overburdened with services to lead, may you find spaces to 'be'

    For those of you who enjoying an extended break, may you find refreshment

    And for those of you I'll be seeing - I'm looking forward to it greatly!

  • Any ideas?

    It's late, life is daft and I've just had an email from someone whose faith is at a point of needing to 'grow up' to cope with such complexities as theodicy and (seemingly) unanswered prayer.  This is why I get hacked off with evangelism courses - they don't prepare their happy converts for real life when the simple answers just don't wash any more.  Or, perhaps, to be more fair, it's why I get hacked off that churches don't build on going nurture as part of their programmes.

    So, anyone out there got an equivalent to 'Theodicy for Dummies' or 'Philosophy of Prayer for Absolute Beginners'?  I have a copy Peter Vardy's 'The Puzzle of Evil' and various elementary philosophy of religion texts (well, as in undergraduate definition of elementary, not GCSE!) but in this case I am reluctant to lend them, not least as the former seems to be out of print.  Any ideas please - and I'll try to source them rapidly.

    Thank you.