The aim of SacREd Space
is to provide a quiet, beautiful, communal space to just be; a time to let go of our to do lists, our anxieties, our pre-occupations, and rest in the silence, music and stillness that is provided. It will hopefully serve as an antidote to our busy, stressful lives and be an opportunity to still our minds and receive from a deeper place – to hear from that still small voice that resides in us, – and to RE- engage with what is important and life- giving. It allows us to step back and reassess what we give our time and energy to.
The evenings don’t follow and exact format, but often include times of quiet, a meditation to still our minds, a ritual that people are invited to partake in (there is no obligation to participate), poems & writings, and a one minute talk.
2018 Winter Into Spring Series
Exploring Spirituality Through Art
Journey towards the light – 7th Jan 7pm
Light that darkness cannot overcome – 4th Feb 7pm
The in between light – 4th March 7pm
The light within – 8th April 7pm
Winter into Spring Series: Exploring Spirituality through Art
Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656)—The National Gallery
The canvass glistens on the gallery wall
where Honthorst has captured the light
of one solitary, recently lit candle.
Two figures are cast into relief by the
yellowing glow; Caiaphas and Christ.
The High Priest’s index finger is raised
in pointed accusation at the kindnesses
that love in all its prodigality permits.
The book of judgment open before him
a ledger to the tyranny of perfection.
The accused Messiah suffers with a
patience that softens all harshness,
the candle’s glare diffused by his distance
from it and his comfort with shadows.
Having just been hauled up out the
dungeon in which he witnessed all
of the High Priests’ banished darkness.
Yet he still returns his fearful stare
with an unbounded compassion.
From where you stand on the polished floor
can you see the whole of the painting?
Can you encompass your own verdicts
alongside a daring embrace of
your own hidden, dungeoned darkness?
Can you step boldly into the scene;
the wrinkled agedness of your tired
Caiaphas – too close to the fierce flame
burning himself and all around him?
Can you catch the lowered gaze of
divine possibility that looking kindly
into the fierce eyes of your own
judgment and emerging from its prison
might be your next unshrinking step?
That is what Honthorst’s Christ is ready for
though he has recently sweated blood.
Cynthia Bourgeault: Jesus was just standing – surrounded by the darkest, deepest, most alienated, most constricted states of pained consciousness; standing, if we can imagine it, among all the mirroring faces of the collective false self that we encountered earlier in the crucifixion narrative: the anguish of Judas, the indecision of Pilot, the cowardice of Peter, the sanctimony of the Pharisees; standing there in the midst of all this blackness, not judging, not fixing, just letting it be in love. And in so doing, he was allowing love to go deeper, pressing all the way to the innermost ground out of which opposites arise and holding that to the Light. A quiet harmonising love infiltrating even the darkest places of darkness and blackness, in a way that didn’t override them or cancel them, but gently reconnected them to the whole.
Is stillness nailed.
To hold all time, all change, all circumstance in and to Love’s embrace.
Journey Towards the Light: January 7th 2018
The Journey of the Magi
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
60-Second Sermons & Poems from SacREd Space: Autumn into Winter Series – Finding life
Letting go as a way of growth, transformation and life seems counter intuitive in a culture that tells us the opposite, that to develop, grow and have life we need to add to our lives: add more things, more experiences, more friends, and we need to climb the ladder. However, the contemplative/mystical tradition of Christianity, indeed the contemplative/mystical traditions of all religions speak of a different way to growth, transformation & life: One of subtraction, not addition; one of emptying and sinking down, not climbing up; one of letting go, not collecting more.
This simplicity and decluttering that comes from a letting go potentially leads to a deepening of our lives, and a re-ordering of priorities – we begin to put our energies into what is important. Letting go can happen as a result of our suffering, grief and darkness, but also happens through laughter, celebration and play. But we can, like tonight take time, to intentionally to stop, be still, and let go of something in order to create space for new things. In the season of Autumn, when the trees and plants are letting go of their leaves, in order to generate sap for new growth, let us continue to think about what we could let go and what new life we should allow to develop in our lives.
Advice to Myself in Anxiety
This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big…. with the expression of all the intimacy and all the great peace and majesty that it has, adding to it a feeling so heartbreaking, so personal. These emotions I do not detest. *
There is no miraculous cure for all this,
just a stubborn willingness to engage
in the day as it comes, not as fear makes it.
The panic often rises, altering the view
of the world around you, making it shimmer,
not with beauty but with the strip light of disquiet.
It passes though, and gives way to joy, not
joy unending but fleeting, gone when noticed,
days of endless homecoming and eviction.
Breathe slowly into this, don’t run, stay,
you are moored more truly than you know,
there is a constancy in you, not your own.
Be kind to the running part, trust all your story,
whatever it leaks over your curated persona,
if you settle in, unshielded, all will be well.
Not well as in a trite joyfully ever after,
but life lived to the downed dregs, drudged and
diamond-like, weakening into the starry night.
That endlessly constellated nocturne which,
at the close of each Sisyphean, stone pushed day
intimates a mist wrapped, and unforeseen dawn.
* Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh, from the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, between 31st May and 6th June 1889 as he painted The Starry Night.
By Adrian Scott
Finding the SacREd in Creation: October 1st 2017
Rain & the Rhinocerous by Thomas Merton
Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By ‘they’ I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they sell you even their rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am still in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.
The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognise, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.
Rain: Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes.
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I will listen.
Of course the festival of rain cannot be stopped, even in the city. The woman from the delicatessen scampers along the sidewalk with a newspaper over her head. The streets, suddenly washed, became transparent and alive, and the noise of the traffic becomes a splashing of fountains. One would think that urban man in a rainstorm would have to take account of nature in its wetness and freshness, its baptism and its renewal. But the rain brings no renewal to the city, only tomorrow’s weather, and the glint of windows in tall buildings will then have nothing to do with the new sky. All ‘reality’ will remain somewhere inside those walls, counting itself and selling itself with fantastically complex determination. Meanwhile the obsessed citizens plunge through the rain bearing the load of their obsessions, slightly more vulnerable than before, but still only barely aware of external realities. They do not see the streets shine beautifully, that they themselves are walking on stars and water, that they are running in the skies to catch a bus or a taxi, to shelter somewhere in the press of irritated humans, the faces of advertisements and the dim sound of unidentified music. But they must know there is wetness abroad. Perhaps they even feel it. I cannot say.
The Uses of Water
The scouring of salt
in seawater can be
caustic and cathartic:
moon-pulled waves offering
their rhythmic invitation
to enter aching
deserts of ocean wildness,
an invitation that
to voyage is to be.
But the silken tensile surface
of freshwater broken
by my naked body slipping
into the lake is sensual,
a virginal moment,
ripe for harvesting.
This is the plunge into soul,
where dark angels lurk
in the reed beds.
An eel touched me once
and left a slime trail on my
ribcage near to my heart.
I once leaned back into
the spring waters
of a white lady with a
blue sash, lowered by old
French men in Lourdes,
icy spring water enveloping
my backward falling body
in a freezing fatal embrace,
then hauling me up
into the world of shivering
originality, my senses jangling,
my skin gilded.
Again in intensive care
I used hospital
water to baptise
a grape-choked child,
its pouring sending
her silently flowing
out of the room.
The mother told me that
her man wasn’t speaking.
I said that perhaps
there was nothing to say.
He looked at me as if I had
offered his drowning a lifebelt.
The water in their eyes
overflowed into mine.
Now we bottle water as
if it was a commodity,
but the plastic
will run out with the oil,
and we will have to cup
our hands to the rain again
and give freely to the stranger.
I read of a desert planet
where a messiah changed the
tears of death into the water
of life; isn’t that
what messiahs are for?
We will all be messiahs
when we submit
to the humbling fact
that we are mainly water,
that we can be undammed,
that we sink or swim together.
By Adrian Scott
One Minute Sermon: Merton’s title Rain & the Rhinoceros is a reference to a play called Rhinoceros by the playwright Ionesco, where people who are always in a rush, who have no time, who have become prisoners of necessity, are referred to as a herd of Rhinoceros’. Merton contrasts the Rhinoceros with the rain, which was falling on the roof of his hermitage tucked away deep in the woods. The rain becomes a sign and symbol of the grace of gratuity, to the festivity of speech & relationship, to the celebration of life on its own terms. It exposes the tyranny of usefulness where everything is reduced to its economic value and utility to provide meaning. Our service tonight is a small attempt to help us simply stop being a Rhinoceros for a time, to let go of all our ‘to do lists’, and simply be – to revel in the gratuitous grace & love of the Divine, to celebrate our naked existence, to allow the water of life, the water of God’s spirit and love to flow through us without trying to control it, evaluate it, judge it, hold on to it but to simply receive it and give it away. Our challenge is that we continue to find space in our busy lives, that we find moments when we stop and just be, where we allow our minds to settle and rest, so that we can receive grace, love & peace, and allow it to flow through us.
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary: 5th November 2017
One Minute Sermon: I remember when I was a young boy, I was part of a team that had won a National final, against all the odds, and the coach said some very wise words: ‘There will come a time in your life when you are older when you feel the ordinary and mundane in your life has overwhelmed your dreams.’ When that time comes remember this moment, remember the applause. I have taken his advice that when I feel ‘the ordinary and mundane in my life overwhelm my dreams,’ I do indeed look back at those special occasions and achievements I have experienced. But I also think that when we feel the ordinary and mundane start to overwhelm our dreams, it is worth stepping back and asking for our eyes to be opened to the beauty in the ordinary, in the everyday, in the routines of life. For it is ordinary life that forms, shapes, and develops us. Ordinary time is a potentially a time of greening – a time of growth, transition, life. Let us learn to live in tension between ‘yearning for more’ – living with that sense of ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,’ and being fully alive, present and awake to the beauty of the present moment so that we can appreciate the ordinary.
I put their leads on full of begrudging,
the rain is audible even through the door
and the winter light is already fading.
The young collie yanks the lead
of my dissatisfaction, a reminder that
I failed to attend to his daily training.
We face the wind, heads leaning into
the onrushing erosion of the blown wetness
seeming to deem us undeserving of any grace.
Up the cloddy path, sticking to my boots,
an indictment, each squelching step
another evidence of my poor progress.
Coming around the stone built cottages
and up the genal, funnelling the three dogs
into a yelping clutter under my tetchy feet.
Out of sorts, isn’t that what they call it,
when the world you find meets all the
low expectations you carried into it?
Then we reach the head of the valley,
whittling the broken end of my tether,
only to look up as the clouds break.
The great orb of the low sun gleams
from behind the leaf shorn beech tree
and we all stop as if music were playing.
The lost Eden opens its generous gates
to animal and human, we pass through
into momentary, unsought beatitude.
By Adrian Scott
Finding Hope in the Darkness: Silent Eucharist Service 3rd December 2017
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
– “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte, House of Belonging