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St Columba's Crosspool

Open to God, Welcoming All

SacREd Space

A time to RE-connect with ourselves, with God, & with others. 

The aim of SacREd Space is to provide a strategic retreat from the busyness and stress of our daily lives so that we might re-enter it with renewed  energy and clarity; it provides an opportunity to still our minds and receive from a deeper place, so that we can RE-engage with what is life giving, REgain perspective, REstore energy, RElease tension, RE-ignite passion, and REnew vision.

There is no hidden agenda to the evening. It is your space, and as long as you are not disturbing others, you are free to join in with what you want.

The evenings don’t follow an exact format, but usually occur in the round or semi- circle with a strong central image and 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.

At the end of the evening people can stay in the space, or leave and take the quiet home with them or go for a coffee and chat. If you would like more information please contact Clare Fowler on

2019 Summer Series

A way of Being in the World

The Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Via Positiva (Incarnation)- 12th May 7pm
Via Negativa (The Cross) – 9th June 7pm
Via Creativa (Resurrection)- 14th July 7pm
Via Transformativa (Pentecost) – 11th August 7pm

From our 2019 Series

“Sweet Darkness”

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
to learn 

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive 

is too small for you. 

– “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte, House of Belonging 

2019 Winter into Spring

Changing Seasons

Launched into the Desert

1. Mark 1:12-14 – Iain

2.Meditation on times we have been launched/driven into the desert – Adrian

3.Desert –/ where we are transformed and changed/Desert fathers and desert mothers actively chose to go into the desert whereas we are often thrust/launched/driven into the desert. The desert is potentially a fertile place- the ultimate teachable space – : What can the desert give and teach us:

* Gives us silence/space/no distractions/Cannot hide

* Stripped down to the essential – teach us what is really important

* Confront our own demons/our shadows in Jungian language

* Let go of things

* Vulnerability/need support and help

* Acceptance that we are not always in control of our lives – open ourselves up to God and others.

  1. Ritual (Adrian & Iain)

Sand in the font and in a large tray. Folk take two handfuls of sand from the font (link to Baptism) and with our fists clenched, hold them over the trays, then let go as Henri Nouwen prayer is said. (Maybe 4 folk at a time so prayer repeated)

Dear God,

I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!

Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?

Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?

Please help me to gradually open my hands and discover

That I am not what I own,

But what you give me.

  1. Silence
  2. Sufi Story of desert transformation– Strategic retreats where we seek liminal space where we are not doing, achieving, being driven by outside forces – Iain

A Stream In the Desert – Sufi story of transformation.
Stream flowing down a mountain, crossing every barrier and obstacle it came up against. At last reached the sands of the desert. As the stream tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.
 It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no way. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: “The Wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.”
 The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed: that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross a desert.
 “By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.”
 “But how could this happen?”
 “By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind.”

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could ever be regained?

Tried again and again and realised that it would just become a stagnant water, a marsh and lose its life by being drained into the sand. So it decided to agree and asked the wind to help it across the desert.

Gradually the water began to be evaporated into the air and the wind gently took it across the desert and as it reached the other side it came to some hills and the wind rose and the water vapour cooled and became moist and clouds began to form and soon it started to rain again on to the mountains, and the droplets became rivulets and they joined to become streams and then a fast flowing river teeming with life began to form.

  1. More silence in which some quotes are read out (Iain & Adrian & Wilma)
  2. Blessing – Adrian

We are but Dust

Our first instinct is to take the imposition of ashes, and the words, ‘Remember You are Dust, and to dust you will return,’ as an act of penance. However, I would suggest that rather than an acknowledgement of our guilt and sinfulness it is a call to an elemental understanding of what it is to be human in all its fragility, vulnerability and dependency. It points to our origin, that humanity was formed from ‘the dust of the ground,’ and that God breathed life into us so that we could become a living being. The fact that we are created from dust from the ground and return to dust reminds us of our essential creatureliness, that we are bound by the same limitations and are not immortal.  This shared creatureliness connects us to other animals and nature: we are bound to the role of steward, friend, and companion to all other species, creatures who share our fragility. To forget our creatureliness leads us to forget our true and rightful place in the world. Instead of caring for nature, we assume a position of power and with it the license to use, exploit, and oppress.

Secondly, Ash Wednesday in the Judae-Christian tradition reminds us of our dependency on God, that our vitality is dependent on the gift of breath, and the continuous giving of breath. It points to the precarious nature of our lives but also to the generosity and loyalty of God who is endlessly forming, breathing on, naming, summoning, guarding and feeding us. Psalm 104 describes this love in two ways: Firstly, as chesed – God’s love is steadfast and from everlasting to everlasting – in other words it will always be there; secondly God’s love is ‘racham’ – a compassion for us like a father or mother has for their children – in other words a tender, deep, agonizing love. It is a reminder not to take the preciousness of our existence and life for granted.

So, tonight’s ritual is not just ‘a smudge on the forehead’ but a moment of liturgical confrontation (our mortality, dependency and vulnerability) that has the potential to redefine how we live by reaffirming our creatureliness, a creature wrought in and through God’s fidelity and love for us. It is a visible sign of freedom and dignity, of fragility and a coming home. It has the potential to give us energy and courage, strength in weakness, exaltation in lowliness. There is a sense that we are destined for a life other than our own, which in the end is true life. These are the ashes, not only relinquishment, of dying to an old sense of self but the ashes of receptivity, of an understanding that we are surrounded and saturated by blessing, and can now live a life of hosting blessing, which in turn will enable us to be a blessing to others.


All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The Eagle & the Donkey

Welcome – (Iain)

Reading: Matthew 21: 1-11 (Anesia read)

Contextual summary of passage (Iain):

In the year of AD 30 it was the week beginning of Passover, the most Sacred week of the Jewish year and one where Jewish unrest and political tension was at its height. There were two processions that day. One from west to East where an Roman Procession showed off its imperial power and might: a procession of cavalry on horses, foot soldiers. Leather armour, helmets, shields, swords, banners, golden eagles mounted on banners led by Pontius Pilate on a beautiful white horse. It was not only a display of power but also Roman Imperial power, where the ruler of Rome was the Son of God, Light and saviour of the world, who would bring Pax Romana – Peace on earth. And then a deliberate, subversive, profoundly confrontational counter procession came from East to West where Jesus, a peasant from Nazareth rides on a donkey, with an alternative vision and kingdom which deliberately countered Pilates procession embodying power, glory and violence by embodying love, service, humility, and promoting distributive justice through non violence.

Jesus, the inspiration behind Gandhi’s non-violent protest, especially his teaching of ‘turn the other cheek,’ – saw this teaching as rather than being a doormat it was profoundly confrontational. You went up to the person who was oppressing or upsetting you and looked them in the eye as an equal and if they hit you, you didn’t hit back but you didn’t run away either.

Watch the Film Clip of Gandhi

Brief summary of clip (Adrian)

Ritual (Adrian)

Folk are asked to think of a situation of injustice where they feel angry that you would like to confront (e.g. Climate Change/Tafficking of young girls/ Abuse in the Church/ Injustice in your work place):

Show clip of tank man

Talk (Iain): lessons learnt from Tiananmen square – Humanising the oppressor

Conclusion: Bringing it back to Palm Sunday:

Two Processions: Violent injustice and oppression v Non violent Justice: Jesus provocative act of non violent protest is inviting us to choose which procession we are to join: to collude and be part of the mechanism which supports empire, oppression, injustice or one that actively opposes empire, oppression and injustice through non violence.

To be neutral is not and alternative as it is really siding with the imperial procession – as Desmond Tutu so succinctly says: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Final Prayer:

Give us the courage to confront injustice and oppression.

Give us the courage & grace to forgive our enemies.

Give us the courage to keep fighting for justice in a non violent way.

From our 2018 Series

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

Vincent’s View

‘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.

Depersonalisation, derealisation,

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

 The Light that darkness cannot overcome – 4rd Feb 2018
Christ Before the High Priest
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.

1 Minute Sermon:
It was Carl Young, the great psychologist who first talked of the shadow. He dreamt of a dark road along which he was walking carrying a small light. He realized that the frightening shadows all around him were actually the parts of himself that he did not want to face. His genius was to realise that we then project those shadows on to other people, thinking it then legitimate to hate them. Jesus said that there is a light darkness cannot overcome. That light comes from the soul, our generous, compassionate, forgiving depths. I wonder if we have the courage to shine the light that darkness cannot overcome into the shadows in our lives, in order to rescue all those parts of ourselves we have relegated to the darkness. Then our angry, hurt, frustrated, prejudiced, judging, parts, like punished children, will find their way back into the light and be healed, allowing us to make the world a better, lighter place.

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

Finding Life in letting go: 3rd September 2017

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.

Lost Eden

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

“Sweet Darkness.”

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
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

– “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte, House of Belonging