Saturday, 27 October 2012

A Week in Bruges.... (Part One...)

You may have noticed my recent disappearance for a week.  I was in Bruges, on retreat.  With some other clergy from the Diocese I went to St Andrew's Abbey, just outside Bruges itself.  That would sound more impressive if I'd put the name in Flemish, but I've forgotten how!

The traditional way to get to Bruges (at least for us) is by boat, though some members of our group behaved appallingly and went by Eurostar.  Shame on them.  I love the boat journey.  Not only does the sense of distance give permission to stop, to relax, but I also just like the way boats move.  The way they slightly catch you off balance, and make you move to one side or the other as you walk.  Can you tell that sea sickness is not a problem I suffer from?!

This is clearly not our boat, or I couldn't have taken a picture.  But it's like our boat.  Just a little quicker out of port than us!

I rather liked the rainbow that appeared halfway through the journey.  Actually, it appeared halfway through my lunch too - we always eat on the boat.  You'll see why....

Not the most exciting view, but...WE'VE ARRIVED!

One short car journey later, and we arrive at the Abbey.  It's set well back from the road, and in it's own grounds with lovely walks in woods, which at this time of year are full of autumn colours.  Just beautiful.

I'm already looking forward to long walks, and peace and quiet!

At the end of the driveway, the Abbey itself appears.  It's a beautiful building which seems to emanate peace and tranquility, which I guess is one reason why the clergy retreat has being doing this journey for so long.

I love the different shapes on the Abbey building - square towers, round towers, little onion shaped turrets.  It's all so...well...interesting!
I suppose I should share the luxury of my room?  You do want to see, don't you?  Well, we got to choose which rooms we had, so I picked the same one I had last year.  I don't know why; they are all the same! But, somehow, that one was MINE, and I wanted it! it is!
Picture One - facing towards the door....
and Picture Two - facing towards the window!
Not luxury, but more than enough for a peaceful few days!
We have talks in the morning and afternoon while we are on retreat, and they are held in the Guest Chapel on the corridor where the bedrooms are.  We also have Compline last thing each evening.  The Chapel is beautiful - peaceful and calm, and holy.
I really liked this statue in the Chapel.......
Meals are taken with the monks in their refectory, and are...interesting!  The big question around each meal is usually 'What's this?' Which is very biblical, I guess - being as 'Manna' translates as precisely that! Whatever is eaten one day, usually turns up as soup the next! 
Breakfast is different, as we eat this together in a small dining room. It consists of bread, with cold meat - if you're first down - and various spreads and preserves.  There is coffee in jugs on the tables, or a coffee machine in the small kitchen.  I decided to be brave one day and use the machine to make a cappucino.  I looked at the machine, and saw some flemish instrucions on a note pointing to one of the buttons, so I pressed it, assuming that to be the right one.  I now know what the flemish for 'Don't press this or you'll get a jug full of coffee dispensed into your small cup.' looks like. 
Much amusement, but little sympathy from my clergy colleagues!
The Abbey itself is beautiful, and the Abbey Church is stunning...
I bought a guide book rather than taking loads of pictures,
so I'm afraid I only have two photos of one small chapel to share here!
Well, that's enough for now.  Much to do, so I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Being Messy...

At Bardwell, they link their Messy Church sessions to Festivals, so the arrival of Pentecost demanded much planning from the team. But, oh, was it worth it.  What fun we had, with paint, paper, glue and jelly.  Yes - Jelly.  Lovely wobbly, cold stuff. Read on for more information!

 Pentecost being about the Holy Spirit, we focussed the activities on wind and flame. (Not real flames, you understand, but there is a lot you can do with paint, and the colours of flame!)

Here, the activity is focussing on wind, and we made windmills.  You remember, the kind you used to stick in a sandcastle at the beach?

It was reasonably simple, and surprisingly popular!

Pentecost wasn't the only celebration taking place in Bardwell - the windmill was rejoicing in getting its fourth sail, and we decided that this meant that mini windmills must be made. Empty toilet roll cardboard tubes being against the health and safety regulations (don't say it...) we rolled up cardboard, cut out sails, made doorways, and decorated beautifully! Very much a last minute activity, we had no real idea how this would work out, but it seemed to go well, with a certain Church Warden (don't worry Jo, I won't name you) taking a distinctly large amount of care over the placing of flowers and so on, only to put the double sided sticky tape in the wrong place when joining it together! Never mind - we sorted it!

By far the largest project of the afternoon was the altar frontal that we made.  Frances brought a cloth on which she had already placed a design, and we painted and painted, came up with this. Not bad, eh!  We were doing well with paintbrushes, but hands seemed better, and once you've done hands, you need footprints....

And to get footprints, you need someone willing to put their feet in paint and stand on the paper.  There was absolutely no shortage of volunteers!  We promise we washed feet afterwards! The frontal will be up in Church in Bardwell for a good while - call in and see it if you're passing!
Here are the smallest feet of the day.  We didn't paint these....

After all our craft stuff, we played pass the parcel - Pentecost being the Church's Birthday, we needed party stuff - and then we had the story of Pentecost, and a prayer.

Birthdays need cake, and so we had a Birthday cake, with a candle for each disciple - flames on their heads.......

Not much was left.....

So there you go - one Messy afternoon, and great fun for all.

What's that?  Jelly?  Oh yes....


We had flame coloured jelly - red, orange, and yellow - and jelly sweets hidden in it.  We had to put our hands in to find a sweet! It was gloriously cold and refreshing, and fantastic fun!

And messy.  But then, it was Messy Church!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Thank you Bardwell School! From a very busy Vicar!

Most weeks I spend my days running from one thing to another - pretty much like everyone else, I guess. Last week was no exception, and Wednesday was a particularly busy day, with an assembly (assessed by the children, just to add to the pressure) as a highlight. I knew I had to run from the school afterwards to make it to my next appointment on time, and that the rest of the day would be taken on the run too.  Except....  as I was leaving the school my eye was drawn to the notice in the photo above.  'Be still....the Lord is here.  Take some time out of your busy day and use this quiet space to pray, think or reflect.'


Be still.....Take time...pray, think, reflect.

I certainly needed to hear those words, as I ran around, pleased with my own busyness!

As I carried on through my day, that notice kept calling to me, and later in the day, I called back to the school and did exactly what it asked.  I sat and took time.  Looked around, prayed, reflected.

I sat in the quiet space for a while, reading the prayers that had been put up by the children, and enjoying the few minutes space, then wandered around the rest of the playground, which seemed equally inviting and peaceful, and it was so lovely that I thought I'd share it here!

I loved the quiet space made out of saplings bent over and joined.  In the middle, the sun came through, speckling the ground and making it warm enough to sit and enjoy the dreamcatchers hanging around the branches.

All around were signs of the children's gardening - from the vegetables...

To the wildflower garden still waiting to grow...

And the greenhouse made out of plastic bottles. The pieces of paper have the names of those who put the bottle in - everyone in the school did one...

And the insect hotel, and compost bins - some with worms to make liquid compost (eeww...but good for gardens, I guess...) mean that nothing is forgotton or wasted!

I know that Bardwell School holds a silver eco school award, and I'm not surprised. But what I valued was not the curriculum stuff that was being done, or the amount that must be being, what I valued that very busy day was the encouragement to take time and space, something we could all do with more of.  I finished my short time out by returning to the quiet space....

...and this kind of said it all!  So I sat and said thank you - for time out, for space, and for a reminder that, however busy we are, we should never be too busy to stop and take a few moments to be with God.  The website Sacred Space shares this story.... 

A Jewish boy, the only son of his devout parents, was a most biddable child, with one exception! He resisted learning the Torah. To his parents, nothing could have been more distressing.
The Chief Rabbi was to visit their Synagogue. They decided to ask him to visit their home. He did, and after the meal the parents expressed to the Rabbi their concern about their son.
The Rabbi asked permission to place his arms around the boy. The parents agreed, moving to one side. They watched and waited, expecting to hear some word of advice from the Rabbi to the boy. But the only word they heard was silence as they watched their son rest close to the Rabbi’s heart.
The next day the boy began to study the Torah. His passion for God’s word grew. Years later he became a wise and loving Rabbi. Many asked him whence his knowledge came. He simply said, ‘I put my ear close to the Chief Rabbi’s heart and in that moment I heard the heartbeat of God.’
In the Gospel of John the ‘beloved disciple’ has his ear on Jesus’ heart. It is a privileged place. But I too am a beloved disciple, so I can do likewise. Only in silence can I hear the Lord’s heartbeat.
Lord, enrich my days with moments of silence, in which I simply listen to you.

So - from a very busy Vicar - Thank you Bardwell School, for the reminder, and for the lovely surroundings in which to 'Take some time...' and to hear the heart of God.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A six year old girl writes to God - and the Archbishop of Canterbury answers

I don't often read the Telegraph - but I saw this online, and I had to share it. Go Rowan!

A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God.
And the Archbishop of Canterbury answers

By Damian Thompson Religion Last updated: April 22nd, 2011

Archbishop Williams plays God (Photo: Getty)

There’s a charming article in today’s Times by Alex Renton, a non-believer who sends his six-year-old daughter Lulu to a Scottish church primary school. Her teachers asked her to write the following letter: “To God, How did you get invented?” The Rentons were taken aback: “We had no idea that a state primary affiliated with a church would do quite so much God,” says her father. He could have told Lulu that, in his opinion, there was no God; or he could have pretended that he was a believer. He chose to do neither, instead emailing her letter to the Scottish Episcopal Church (no reply), the Presbyterians (ditto) and the Scottish Catholics (a nice but theologically complex answer). For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.
+Archbishop Rowan

I think this letter reveals a lot about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sort of theology – more, indeed, than many of his lectures or agonised Synod addresses. I’d be interested to know whether readers of this blog think he did a good job of answering Lulu’s question.
But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message – unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary – to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!” was the reaction of Alex Renton’s mother, and I agree.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Labyrinth at Ingham Church

Do come along to The Labyrinth at Ingham Church on Friday and Saturday this week.

Labyrinths have been used since medieval times as a way of journeying. Our Labyrinth takes us through the events of Holy Week and uses sight, touch, smell to help us to experience the Easter story in a new way.

If you haven't been before, then do try this. Come along on Friday or Saturday afternoon, and experience Easter as you've never seen it before.

Holy Week in the Blackbourne Team

Lots to get involved in this week. On Maundy Thursday, we have our Seder Meal at Ingham Church. We have 35 booked in for this, and it should be a great night! Good Friday, we have several of us going to the Passion Play in Bury St Edmunds, beginning at the Cathedral and moving through the town. Or you could do the Stations of the Cross around Barnham, or the Easter Garden at Ixworth. Or the Labyrinth at Ingham. Or an hour at the cross at Honington at 2pm. Easter Eve, more Labyrinth, and our Service of Light at Ixworth in the evening. Easter Day brings services in all our churches, beginning with our Sunrise Service at 5.30am at Doug's Farm in Troston. We will be in the Lambing Shed, and there are already tiny lambs in there! So there you are - lots to be involved in. See you there.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Palm Sunday Wordle....

The Gospel for Palm Sunday as a Wordle. Wordle: Untitled

I Deny the Resurrection

Thanks to Simon Cutmore for sharing this. Amazing!

Monday, 24 May 2010

A lovely sunny afternoon in May, and the Barnham end of the Blackbourne Team, with a few extras, head off to bless fields, seed, soil and water - and a few piggies along the way - for Rogation Sunday. We met at Barnham Church, where we said our first prayer of blessing, and then set off, crossing the main road very carefully! Oh, the power of holding up the traffic!

After a very short time we found ourselves walking on farmland, admiring the beautiful views as we went along. After a short stop to bless the stream as we crossed it - the only water we were going to pass - we carried on through areas which had an incredible history. I had expected the farming background, but had no idea about the testing of tanks during the First World War!

Not everyone was pleased to see us......!

We planned to walk about 4 miles, and halfway round we were more than ready for the coffee and squash that were provided - thank you ladies! After this break, we were offered the opportunity to take a slight detour to see the baby pigs! I think this was probably intended largely for the smaller members of the group, but I didn't see many adults turning down the offer!

Teeny tiny piggies!

Many of us, I suspect, would have stayed with these tiny creatures for hours. But time pressed on, and we set off for the second half of our walk, taking us back to Barnham. We stopped to bless the fields and the seed, and to admire the amazing blue skies we found ourselves walking beneath.

Blue, blue, blue skies.........

All too soon we found ourselves heading back to Barnham, and to a well earned tea. We were all fairly warm, and a little tired, but we had enjoyed ourselves and blessed all that required blessing. The walk also showed me once more, should I ever need reminding, just how lucky I am to live in this beautiful area!

Thanks go to all who arranged the walk, and to those who provided the refreshments. And well done to all the smaller members of our party, who managed to walk the whole distance!