Online or Offline, it’s all Church to Me …

As the conversations around reopening Church buildings get more and more intense, so do the conversations around Online church. Has it been the poorer relation all along. Is it sustainable? Or has it been fully embraced? Has it been recognised for the power and inclusivity it has in it’s own right? How can we balance both, to meet all needs, recognising neither model can work for every soul out there?

For those of us who have firmly found our solace and home, for long term or for now, online, it is deeply distressing to see the language, often thoughtless and not ill intentioned, but still dismissive and diminishing, around Online church. Language such as “if only online”, “all be it online”, “sadly for now, online” (courtesy of @Ord_Off, 19/10/2020 Twitter).

Yes I miss a beautiful Church building, singing praises in community, developing friendships. But actually, I’ve learned these are all things I miss about life, experiences, not actually things that grew me on my walk with God. I just thought they were important because I’d been taught to think that way, and once I had to stop and experience anew for myself God without physical Church, I learned so much more, mostly with support from Online Church, than I ever dreamed I would.

When physical Church couldn’t understand my anger, and were repelled by it, Online church held it, recognised it, empathised and offered a space where it could be shared, softened and released.

When physical Church had no direct experience, understanding or expertise to offer me, Online church had a plethora, freely offered and generously shared.

When physical Church expected theological adherence and behaviours that strained me to the core of my personhood, Online Church only expected kindness and respect, whatever I believed and however I expressed it. Freedom as long as there was no harm*.

When physical Church couldn’t connect me with fellow ‘Wilderness Theologians’ (my term!) at the incredible Evolving Faith Conference 2020, Online church had it spectacularly covered

Online church is more than what one priest achieves in their parish on a Sunday with the resources they can bring together, with no training, no additional funding, many with no technical acumen or inclination. Quite frankly, for what was asked of them, they all deserve recognition, and a seriously big reflection from their central management as to whether that was really the right call once this is all over …?

People have been doing this for years! Disability theologians have a massive toolkit, yet their expertise is widely untapped. Why is this? Come and join the conversations here where they are happening, instead of reinventing them, I implore you! Online church is alive and well, it is amazing and bold, exciting and innovative, local and international, not ‘sadly a substitute’.

Embrace it as an additional expression of Christ working his Kingdom out into the world and what Joy lies there for you to find!

Peace be with you

*I am not so naive as to think this is 100% infallible, and I know that to some my words have caused harm for which I am sorry and have sadness. I do believe absolutely in the difference between intentional, direct attacks in communications and expressed reflections which stir up responses in the reader that then cause pain. The former I am always striving to avoid, the latter I am always open to conversation about. Either way, if I hurt you through my words, you can’t find a way through that hurt and there is a conversation to be had, then through the the Grace of God it is always better to have it and my inbox is always open. Peace be with you.

A Prayer for Sunday 18th October 2020

God, there is so much sadness in the world, I thank you for times of howling laughter with my son who shares my sense of humour to the letter.

God, there is so much pain in the world, I thank you for times of gentle hugs with my daughter who shares my love of soft blankets and wrapping up in them.

God, there is so much loss in the world. I thank you for my husband who stands firm and shares my conviction and faith in you, in us and in a better way to live.

Today I am thankful.

Amen

Peace be with you

The Lioness Within

There is so much imagery in the Bible around Lions, I can work with a Lioness right?! Well, I’m going to …

She rests. Watches. Waits. Her brood continue their merry lives around her, oblivious to the weighty responsibility of feeding and caring for the pride that she bears. She holds still, conserving the energy she will need for the moment …

She rises, bolts. Runs like the wind, fiercly, boldly. Grabs her prey, wrestles it, doggedly, determined, again and again, as it falls or should it evade. As she has success or as she must return to her wait.

For as she rises, as she runs, as she pursues what she aims to take for the benefit of her people, her family, her loved one, she roars. Oh how she roars. Have you ever roared? Have you connected to that place within you, where there is nothing left to feel but that deep sense of ‘I HAVE to do this’. This MUST be. This is NOW.

Last night, after a particularly challenging time of prayer and lament, my tears turned almost imperceptively into cries, and then into deep, deep roars, from somewhere within me I’m not sure I’d found before. Wrapped up in a blanket, I had the soundproofing to just go with it, so I did. How liberating! How joyful in the midst of the pain! What a glorifying release, to be led to that place in prayer and then be gifted a way to let it go in such a profound and spiritual way.

When God called the world into being, was it with a gentle whisper, or an almighty roar? When Jesus turned the tables did he do so with a polite ‘Excuse me’ to please the Tone Police, or with an almighty roar? When the Spirit fell on the Apostles on that first Pentecost, was it with a gentle ‘Peekaboo’? Of course there is a place for a whispering movement of God, but no, it was with an almighty roar!

As Kamala Harris so deftly showed the world in the 2020 US Vice Presidential Debate, women are used to being silenced, and doing so with dignity. I say, the time for politeness is over. I say, let us practice and get used to hearing our voices in an almighty roar as the Lionesses of the Pride of Judah that we are!

Peace be with you

When She Comes to Walk with Me

This weekend was a hard one. I could barely walk. My neighbour, a lovely gentleman who cares for his Mother, had noticed I had been struggling and came round to gift me a three wheeled walker his parents had bought but barely used. The enabling gift to help me was the first set of tears. The shock that he had seen I needed it was the second.

On Friday some workman had been to our house and damaged our son’s wildlife garden. In managing his disappointment I had promised him a trip to the Garden Centre for more plants. So despite hobbling along like Yoda at his finest, off we went. Cue the third set of tears at the joy and seriousness H took planning and choosing the materials for his new garden. And the fourth as I couldn’t get up the tiniest of inclines.

As we reached the top of the outdoor area, where the trees were, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the most beautiful tree stood on it’s own, by the path, in an unusual place by the logic of the displays. Almost as if it was put there for me to spot. The label peeked out at me from within the branches. Photinia. I caught my breath. The fifth set of tears, and a deep sense of love and calm. This time, I didn’t try to hold them back. This time, I didn’t bury them, or tell myself I was silly to have them brewing. This time, they flowed.

Photinia is derived from Photine, which in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions is the name given to the Samaritan Woman at the Well we hear about Jesus meeting in John 4. She is one of my absolute favourite Bible characters, someone I relate to, have great affinity with, find greatly misrepresented and come back to time and time again. To have a reminder of her, and all she represents to me, there in the centre of one of the most painful weekends I’ve had in a long while, was so special, and the wrapping of pure care and adoration I found myself in as I wept in while the world turned around me just made it all the clearer. Jesus was meeting me there. I didn’t need to hide any more. He had living water there for me, there, immediately, and He wanted to share it with me in that moment. Whatever the world thought of that.

Of course with two children who want to get home and plant their alpines and a distinct lack of balance, just standing there in the presence of God wasn’t an option for long. But it was enough. Set of tears no. 5 were the last ones that day. But oh were they precious. And no, we didn’t buy the big Photinia tree. But we did pick up a smaller version to bless our home with, to remind us as she grows that God came to walk with me when I could barely put toe in front of toe, to stand with me when I had no strength to hold up on my own, to call forth the tears that needed to flow and to dry them once they were done.

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39 NIV). May you believe that God has love for you because of what you read in this blog, too.

Peace be with you.

A Prayer for Sunday 11th October 2020

God of all, in us and with us, we need your help this day.

Help us to bring joy, not pain.

Help us to know our limits, not push past them.

Help us to reach out, not wither inward.

Help us to seek others, not seek solitude.

Help us to join together, not push apart.

Help us to look to eachother’s pain, not away from it.

Help us to lean toward eachother’s needs, not avoid them.

Help us to help you help us.

Amen

Peace be with you

A Prayer for Sunday 4th October 2020

God, you are just incredible. You are beyond words. You have so much to give, so much to bless us with, so many ways to hold us and care for us. So much beauty to give us.

A birdsong, a rainbow, a lover’s touch, a text from a friend, a ladybird on the window, a fresh bloom on a plant, a bubble drifting slowly by, the smell of fresh rain, the sight of a sleeping child, a warm sweet cuppa, a dancing candle flame, a day of rest (or at least of difference), a never- ending well of hope constantly accessible to all if we just lean in …

Oh how blessed we are, God, in the darkest of times we face, to know You.

Amen

Peace be with you

Mobility Aids and Making the Best

Meet Sally and Billy! I know, we’re a bit daft in our house…

My son looked at me deadly seriously last night and said ‘Mummy, I’m a bit worried about you, since lockdown you’ve turned into a Granny’.

He’s not wrong. I was walking around in six layers, two of them crochet. Actually, I wasn’t walking, I was doing a kinda shuffle/hobble thing, which I’ve been doing for well over a month since I collapsed quite spectacularly at home. No physical cause. So what is causing a measurably perfectly healthy mid 30s young woman to be this way?

Trauma.

I clocked up the other week, it has been twenty years since I first entered the world of romantic relationships, and began learning I didn’t have a clue how to negotiate this landscape. I now know that’s Autism, and my journey is typical for undiagnosed female Autistic young women. But it is one full of abuse, being stripped of self worth and self esteem, learning my only inherent value is based on what I will give to someone else, and a whole raft of horrors for various reasons can’t be written about here … for now.

Trauma that seeps into the way I respond when someone doesn’t hear my concerns in a meeting. Trauma that informs my reaction when I cry out in pain at the minor injustices I experience, because they are the tip of the iceberg of so many more unresolved ones. Trauma that means I cannot ever, ever go into a situation with a blank slate for fear of what curveball my inner state may throw at me when I least expect it.

At least I’m aware right? At least I can do something? At least I can get help? It has taken two years to get NHS help, through no fault of the incredible practitioners but every fault of the systemic and deliverate underfunding of services by politicians to suit their own ends. Now I am receiving some therapeutic support, it is generalised, and not specific. It may help. But will it help enough?

In the meantime, I hobble. My period, that wonderful barometer of a woman’s heath, is a monthly minefield. I take a multitude of prescribed and supplemental pills a day and I pray, oh how I pray. Sometimes I cope. Sometimes, I really don’t.

Sometimes, I get pragmatic. So I am now the proud owner of Sally Stick, to help me feel able to get to the shops and not be scared of leaving the house. Enabled, not disabled. I am not the equally proud owner of Billy Ball (I had to pursuade the children away from Bobby…) to help me build up my core and feel like I am actively doing gently but persistent and upbuilding exercise which will help. Enabled, not disabled.

Because in so many ways I am feeling very disabled by society right now…

Peace be with you

A Prayer for Sunday 27th September 2020

God, so many are struggling. Today we thank you for the help.

For medications, herbs, comfort food and nice warm drinks. Thank you.

For mobility aids, weighted blankets, swiss balls and hot water bottles. Thank you.

For Therapists, Support Workers, Pastoral Carers and darn good friends. Thank you.

For your Spirit when all else fails, when everything else feels unreachable, when we are at the end of our tethers. Thank you.

Amen.

Peace be with you.

A Prayer for Sunday 20th September 2020

God who creates, who created all things and inspires us to create with our own bodies, be with us now.

Breathe new life into our weary souls, that we may be inspired afresh, and renewed to create again.

May we reach beyond the limitations of what we know, explore beyond what is readily available, and search for what is just a little bit further away, with open minds in awe of the beauty we do not yet have descriptions for.

Give us understanding that difference holds possibility not fear, the embracing of which brings learning not disconnect, and the result if which is growth not pain.

May you be at the centre of all situations where growth is stunted, pain is flowing and conflict abounds, Parent of All. Help us to create new dialogues, new beginnings, new communities. and may you bring blessings of sweet peace to all.

Amen

Peace be with you