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 Spring into Summer Series
Beauty Will Save the World
Awakening to Beauty – 13th May 7pm
Beauty’s Gateway – Imagination – 10th June 7pm
The Beauty of Humility – 8th July 7pm
Beauty and the Feminine Spirit – 12th August 7pm
Awakening to Beauty
Dostoevsky in one of his novels ‘The Idiot,’ had a character called Mishkin, a Christlike figure, who others referred to as ‘The Idiot,’ because he was so out of kilter with the values of the world and those around him, kept repeating the phrase, ‘Beauty will save the World.’ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote later that he felt this was a real prophecy about the future. Beauty undefinable really, but shouldn’t be mistaken for glamour- which is often fickle, commercially driven and appears and disappears in an instant.
A thousand years ago Prince Vladimir the Great, the pagan monarch of Kiev, was looking for a new religion to unify the Russian people so he sent out envoys to investigate the great faiths from the neighbouring realms. When the delegations returned they gave the prince a multitude of reports on different faiths. He chose one from the envoys who went to the Hagia Sophia temple in Constantinople.
This is the report they sent back: Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty. Upon receiving the report Prince Vladimir adopted Christianity as the new faith for the Russian people. What impressed the envoys and persuaded Prince Vladimir to embrace Christianity was how beautiful it was.
1 Minute Sermon
Our Church Fathers stated that there were 3 great virtues: Goodness, Truth & Beauty. Today there are many who are in search of some form of spirituality to give them what materialism promises but is unable to deliver. Our Church responds with logical arguments for the truth of Christianity (apologetics) and also by making the case for the moral goodness Christianity can produce (ethics). This is all fine. But what about beauty? Is it possible that our faith and spirituality can be communicated in terms of beauty? To a generation suspicious of truth claims and unconvinced by moral assertions, beauty has a way of sneaking past our defences and speaking to us in unique ways. A Faith and spirituality enchanted by beauty, formed by beauty, and reflecting beauty, has the opportunity to present to a sceptical and jaded world, hope, life and passion. The story of Jesus Christ is breathtakingly beautiful! Take the cross – on the surface a hideous, repellent form of torture for those who opposed the Roman empire. And yet Jesus turns this emblem of death, suffering and torture into something beautiful: into an emblem of forgiveness, love, hope and life.
Notice the reaction of the shoppers: all are stunned, taken out of their comfort zones; Some capture the moment on their cell phones; Others rise to join in; Some simply sit with faces full of wonder; while others wipe away tears; a minority maybe don’t experience beauty. Perhaps what makes the video somewhat amusing is also what makes it deeply moving—its incongruence. The juxtaposing of high art and a shopping mall, —the modern banality of a shopping mall has been temporally transformed into a cathedral – something jaw dropping.
This “random act of culture” in Ontario is a metaphor for how the church could position itself in the world.
Instead of shaking our fist at a secular culture, we could attract people by enacting a beautiful presence within a world; we can be joyful singers transforming the secular with the sacred. Instead of alienated separatists sequestered in Christian enclaves, we could transform food courts into cathedrals by our song.
Quote by RD Laing
“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”
The Light Within
‘And yet I have only seen the garden and what I can look at through my window’*
The winter of his symptoms was shocking,
catching him out with their intensity,
they diagnosed epilepsy and exhaustion,
he knew it was mental illness though.
He had to leave his house in Arles,
prized canvases in that bedroom
he captured so poignantly in oil,
that simple floor and the sky-blue walls.
The sign that he accepted his sickness
was that he went freely to Saint Remy,
allowed himself to be called unwell
and unable to cope with ordinary life.
The storm left him shattered like those
he saw each day in the asylum, idling
like old horses no longer fit to plough,
this idleness he feared and fought hard.
modern words for what the psyche does
when it is prey to the utter dread
that anxiety brings to body and mind.
Somehow, he worked out that it was all
part and parcel of his plight, seeking
sanctuary in the old monastery walls,
painting his way out of a dreadful corner.
The terrible fear of madness receding
in the glorious greens of the garden,
the pebbled paths and cloister leading
to a round of walked and plodded calm.
He knows his illness may well come back
but he is not braced rigid against it,
no, he is breathing out the garden that he
inhaled onto the stretched new canvas.
He says it is bravery to live this way
his brush is chasing the essential, the true
likeness, strokes keeping up with sight,
and the reaper in the barred window’s field.
* Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh,
from the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, early June 1889.
60 second sermon
The Light Within
Vincent Van Gogh moved to the South of France in search of the golden light of the Sun. He dreamed of a studio in the South where he would found a commune of artists. One came, Paul Gaugin, then they clashed and Gaugin left. Vincent had a breakdown. He ended up in San Remy, a mental hospital, as I said. This is what a modern art critic has said of this time. ‘Van Gogh’s indefatigable determination to paint had never been greater than in the Asylum at Saint-Rémy.’ He felt he was in the dark and had lost the light. Then he found it within himself and because of that he painted it where he found it, even though it was in an asylum. This is what the pain of illness and loss can introduce us to; the light within. The beauty of God once found in the soul is never far from our eyes if we have the courage to really look.
The Movie about Us – Eva Dahlgren
My voices stay light
And all that lived there
My voices – colors
I sing the words about us
And the fire of misty sunset
I sing the straight line
I sing refractions
And what your head is thinking
And all the feelings in between
They have each other to clean
I sing the surface
And all the ferrules there
I sing the bodies desire
Expectations of fire
All Heaven voices above us
It turns to eternity
I sing for our love to be
to begin without end
My voices stay light
And all that lived there
I sing the openings
I sing the movie about us
And the fire of misty sunset
The light/Space between – Rublev’s Trinity: 4th March 2018
In post-modern culture the ceaseless din of chatter has killed our acquaintance with silence. Consequently, we are stressed and anxious. Silence is a fascinating presence. Silence is shy; it is patient and never draws attention to itself. Without the presence of silence, no word could ever be said or heard. Our thoughts constantly call up new words. We become so taken with words that we barely notice the silence, but the silence is always there. The best words are born in the fecund silence that minds the mystery.
Rublev’s icon created in 15th Century, based on the story when the God in the guise of 3 people appear to Abraham near the trees of Mamre. Well know – let you meditate on the picture in silence.
What strikes you? –chalice of wine – a symbol of Christ’s suffering on the cross & the depth & extent of his love
Tonight’s title is the light between/As we look at Rublov’s Icon I want to not focus on the 3 persons of the Trinity but instead look at Space the between the 3 persons – the relationship between them. In the picture there seems to be a equality, vulnerability, deference & humility, an openness to one another – there doesn’t seem to be any power imbalance; no element of control or hierarchy but more one of mutuality.
The bible stories describing the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity seem to describe a flow of love; of pleasure; of delight; a perfect giving and receiving of love, notice never taking. There is an openness, a vulnerability, in both receiving & giving this love, a desire to reveal their deepest selves to one another. This flow and movement of love has been likened to a dance, where you are open to responding to your partners every move. The Greek word used to describe the Trinity ‘perichoresis’ has often been described as dancing and comes from two Greek words, peri, which literally means “around,” and chorein (where the word choreography comes from), which means “to give way” or “to make room.” It could be translated “rotation” or “a going around. So tonight I would like you to imagine that God is not only the dancer but the dance itself – that the very nature of God is in between, in the flow of love, in the giving and receiving, in the relationship. (Book – The Divine Dance by Catholic Priest Richard Rohr – please borrow it but let me have it back. His Thesis is that if we really changed our understanding of God to one that was Trinitarian it would radically change the way we live.)
In the picture you may have noticed a small rectangular shape at the front of the table. One explanation for this is that in the original painting there was a mirror in which people who looked at the picture could see themselves reflected in it. If that is the case it is an ingenious way to communicate the idea that we are invited into this dance, this flow of love, this perichoresis – that the Trinity are infinitely hospitable and have ‘made room’ for us to join the dance – to openly receive love, and to generously give it.
Using this metaphor of dance, we are now going to look at a montage of dance – although there are only two people involved in the dance, I would argue there are 3, the choreographer or spirit which infuses the dance. Not going to comment on it – ask you to watch it & see if it communicates anything about being in relationship whether that is relationship with God or with another human being:
One Minute Sermon
Imagine if we put the idea of participating in the perichoresis at the centre of our faith and/or life; if we accepted the invitation to join in this dynamic, exciting, fluid dance; where we prioritized relationships above all else; where we became vulnerable enough to be open to receiving one another’s love; where we were generous enough to give our love to others without an expectation of receiving anything in return. If we paid particular attention to the blocks that stop mutuality and open relationship between us: unforgiveness; resentments; a judgmental spirit.
This would involves courage, and above all vulnerability, a willingness to risk uncertainty and emotional exposure. But it is worth it: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives can be confirmed by our fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.” Brene Brown
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive, allowing us to be most fully the person we were created to be”.
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