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  • Our Lady of the People with Downs Syndrome...

    At last night's evening service, we were shown some religious art depicting the adoration of the Magi. Among the works shown were a couple that had been modelled by people known to the artist, among them children or adults with what we would nowadays term Downs Syndrome.  I recalled that I had recently seen some Madonna and Child art that went a stage further, and depicted the Christ Child as having Downs Syndrome.

    Take a moment to appreciate that enormity of this... that 500 years ago (or thereabouts) it was seen as OK to depict Christ thus, with an extra chromosome, a 'mistake' in his makeup, without anyone getting het up about perfection and spotless sinlessness.

    Times have changed, Downs Syndrome has been named, stigmatised, destigmatised, restigmatised and more.  We have become accustomed to seeing Jesus portrayed by people of colour and a lot of people have encountered a Christa (female being crucified) to the point that its shock value is largely lost.  But a 'maimed' or chromosomally rare Jesus, whether visible or invisibly unusual, that's not something I've come across beyond these early Downs portrayals.

    What does it mean to be in the image of God for people whose chromosomes are not typically arranged? What does it mean to see a protrayal of the infant Christ that looks like 'us' - or that looks like 'them'?

    A Christ with Downs syndrome, a Christ with androgen insensitivity syndrome, a Christ with BRCA1 or BRCA2, a Christ with an auto-immune condition, a Christ with dissociative personality disorder or gender dysphoria, an amputee Christ, a Christ born blind or deaf, a Christ with learning disabilities...

    The list is endless and the questions complex and unanswerable.  Not good enough to say that cancer or diabetes or leprosy or mental health conditions are all the product of sin or sinfulness, even if, on a global and historical measure, that is,partly at least, true.  Not good enough to reduce Christ to a perfect (whatever that means) male locked in time in space, when the eternal nature of God defies that.  Not good enough to think we ever get a handle on this, let alone understand it.

    For now, though, just take a moment to sit with the beautiful image of a Madonna and Child painted around 1460 by an artist called Mantegna and marvel at the Christ in whose face we glimspe something of God.

  • Wishing upon a star...

    As part of our service this morning, I invited people to make 'three wishes' for the year ahead, and to record them on a star, which they could take away and did not need to show anyone.  The photo is mine.

    The overarching theme was 'self care' being kind to ourselves so that we can better 'shine like stars' in a dark and sometimes bewildering world.

    The first wish was a promise to do something to be be kind to ourselves.  As someone who regularly works too many days, and so is not modelling a healthy life style, let alone being kind to myself, I have promised to take my days off - or to have a lieu day when for good reason (as is the case in the week just beginning) that isn't doable.  So, yes, next week it'll be two days off to offset the none this week.

    The second wish was a promise not to do something that is unkind to ourselves. As a person who has spent endless years being told to stop apologising, and who has done quite a lot of work in recent months to work at issues of shame and low self-esteem, I have promised not to apologise for being me.  If I do something wrong/bad or fail to do something good/right, if I hurt someone, then of course I will apologise.  But not for being me... and trust me, that's a genuine challenge!

    The third wish was a pledge to shine like a star by being who we are.  I opted to commit to share my joy.  For all sorts of reasons, I am usually quite measured, even sometimes referred to as stoic.  Perhaps what I need is to be a bit more openly joyful.  More smiles, more playfulness, more openly enjoying myself... and hopefully this will be a little bit brighter for others.

    So, if you could have three wishes along these lines, what would they be?

    And of course the thing with these wishes is that they will only come true if we make them!

  • Epiphany

    This morning we arrived at the hotel to disocver that there had been such cofuision with our bookings that our room was unavailable and we had hastily been transferred to a HUGE suite, set ready for a banquet of some sort.

    With their now familiar adaptability, everyone simply got on with it, and we made the space work for us as best we could.

    Lots of songs, lots of stars, some candles and communion... and the babble of children doing craft at the back of the room, it had a very family feel.

    Next week we will hopefully be back in our familiar spaces, but it was good to be somewhere unexpected to reflect on being led by a star to unexpected places...

    Here are some folk gathering in readiness before the service (for which we needed to pull in extra seats) began...

    epiphany 2.jpg


  • Ready for the next 15 years?!

    After a fair bit of faffing, for no obvious reason, the new basic phone is good to go... hopefully it will last for many years, serving my 'work' needs. It's not quite as simple as the one it replaces, and it has a case to match the one for my personal smart phone, (albeit one that is upside down!) but I am sure it will do just fine once I have got used to where everything is on the menu. The bonus was that I had always stored the contacts on the sim, so no need to add them to the phone - phew!

    Nothing theological about any of that, but it amused me that sometimes old becomes new...

  • Learning to breathe...

    This morning I attended a 'pilates induction session' - advertised as 30 minutes, it was actually nearer 40, and basically what we learned was how to breathe in the correct way for pilates.

    Much concentration was needed to correctly align the feet, spine and neck, to centre the core and to breathe from the diaphragm.  I can't claim to have mastered it, but I gave it a good go, and have signed up for eight weeks of beginners classes.

    Whilst I don't think there is a 'right' or even a 'Christian' way to pray, meditate or reflect, there seems to be some sort of parallel... (re-)aligning our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, being aware of our own physicality as well as our intellect and spirituality, discovering that it isn't easy, but it is worthwhile... and then maybe metaphorcially 'signing up' for a short course of intentional prayer/meditation/reflection.

    Unlike pilates, where progression from 'beginner' to 'intermediate' to 'advanced' is anticipated/expected, spiritual exercise is not about getting better, but I think it probably is about learning to breathe...