Growing Spirituality

A new book about the Ecumenical County of Cumbria

 Growing Spirituality is a personal reflection on the spirituality of Cumbria.  This book briefly tells the story of the faith from the first Christians to those denominations that signed the covenant partnership and supported it in Carlisle Cathedral on 27th November 2016.

In telling the story of faith Growing Spirituality reflects on the spiritual styles that have played an important part in shaping the churches of the county. It is a story of the dynamism of Christ’s disciples over the last sixteen centuries, rooted in prayer, community and mission. Finally Growing Spirituality asks where the spirituality of the ecumenical county may be taking us in the future?

Growing Spirituality is published by Open Spirituality Publishing, 150 pages and costs £10.

ISBN – 978-0-9926277-1-3

Available from OSP please email your postal address to booksosp@gmail.com to receive a copy.

Cheques made payable to ‘OSP’ or online payments to ’OSP’ Sort Code 16-52-21 Account 52295495

Books can be ordered from Cameron via his Diocesan Spirituality Adviser email  cdsa03@gmail.com

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The Lesson of the Looking Glass

Heavenly Light on Daily Life

This meditation was originally published in April 2014.  It is a timely message as we walk through Holy Week in the year 2017.

A Series of devotionals by Lilias Trotter, Lesson 1

Wherever there are women there are looking-glasses, from the Sherifa with her great mirror framed in carving and gilding, to the tent of the Bedouin woman, who wears a little leather-covered disc among her many ornaments.

For all women want to see what they look like – what they look like to other people.  And they know that the mirror gives to their view what they themselves would never see – the form and the tint of their features and the drapery of their headgear.

So far the mirror goes, no further, it can only picture the outer person.  But there is another mirror that can shew thee thy inner person.  That mirror is the Holy Book.  In a mirror of glass thou canst see thy face as thy neighbour see it, but in the Word of God thou canst see thy heart as God sees it.

Our earthly mirrors sometimes shew things that make us sad.  A woman may think her face still young and fair; but her mirror shews the wrinkles and grey hairs that have begun to come.  It tells her the truth.

So also God’s Word tells us the truth about our hearts, that is to say that they are not good as we like to think them, but bad before Him.

For instance, thou thinkest perhaps that thou canst gossip all day long, without harm.  See how that gossip appears to God.  He says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.”  “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

It may be, in thy mind are thoughts of pride, despising thy neighbour.  Look in the mirror of God:  He says, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.”

It may be that thy heart harbours hatred against another, thou sayest, “I do well to be angry.”  Look once more in God’s mirror and see how this hatred looks to Him:  “He that hateth his brother is a murderer.”

Look, O my sister, in this mirror that tells thee the truth, and quickly thou wilt see that thou dost need a Saviour.

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Signs and Wonders

When it finally came, who knew in advance?  Though the moment had been foretold through the ages, did anyone recognise it when the day arrived?  And how did it come?  A visitation.  A scandal.  A promise.  The birth of a child.  A manger.  Miraculous signs to shepherds.  A star to help wise men find their way.

This year in Coniston we relived the signs and wonders of Christmas.  A community project but seemingly without direction.  A phone call to the Mother’s Union.  Will you take on the Promise?  Then a letter arrived with instructions.  Similar soundings came to the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church and the Fellowship with instructions.  No-one knew who else would be there when they arrived.  A date and time were supplied.  All arriving together to play their part.  Knowing one side only.  Having no visibility of what else would happen at the same time.

We have heard it said that God works in mysterious ways.  Reliving the signs and wonders of Christmas was more vivid and beautiful than ever before this year as joyful expectation builds for what will come in 2017.

A school group follows the signs and wonders of Christmas in Coniston

A school group follows the signs and wonders of Christmas in Coniston

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Our beautiful church family

Perhaps I was having an overly emotional day having been flattened by a particularly nasty case of the flu since Sunday eve.  I walked into the church yesterday in advance of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding, just to take a quick peek and leave some treasures behind, but what I saw instead was love and beauty beyond measure.

You see, here in rural England, everything we do is a voluntary act.  We have a house for duty Priest who came out of retirement, along with his wife June, to lead us, a full year after the departure of the previous full time Priest.  We are part of a deanery which is having to make do with fewer paid full time priests and part of the suffering for the deanery means that we, the tiny communities of Coniston and Torver, are not considered large enough to require their own full time priest.

Being small does not diminish the work load at all.  In fact we hold a range of services each and every Sunday, weddings, baptisms (one a month in Coniston), home groups, celebrations, festivals and minister to all who come our way, including the 300,000+ people who come into our community every year through tourism.  We have an active Fair Trade coffee morning each and every Wednesday a.m. which reaches out to people travelling through as well as to locals in the heart of the community.  A mid-day prayer service allows for quiet meditation while all the chatter in the coffee morning is going on.

It takes a lot to support these activities and the on the ground ministry.  We have two lay ministers, two church wardens, several voluntary musicians, several deanery synod members, a Mother’s Union, a full PCC, and each and every person on the electoral roll, fully signed up and committed to the community.

Knowing all of this, what I saw yesterday made me realise what a beautiful church family I am part of.  The day of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding the weather was horrendous.  Tears of joy were falling from the heavens.  Earlier, all hands would have been inside the church, cleaning, beautifying, laying flowers on each of the candle sticks made by Peter, setting tables, preparing food, making it beautiful and perfect for the wedding.

Before I entered the church, I ran into June, having spent the morning beautifying with flowers, she now on her way to change clothes.  As I coughed away, she mentioned that Linda too is ill and suggested we were going to have to stop meeting on Sundays as I thought to myself wryly and Saturday and Tuesday and Wednesday too.  I do hate being ill.

I walked into the sound of beautiful music and a scene of total calm and serenity.  Pat, the church Secretary was wearing a very smart grey pin striped suit.  Both Peter and Tim were dressed in dark handsome suits wearing big smiles.  All work and preparation done, nothing missing, everything ready and waiting in eager anticipation for The Wedding.

I walked across the street to deliver a package to Anne and looked back to see Nick, the church Warden, walking into the church, wearing full rain gear on top, morning dress below and carrying a big cooler loaded with the best drink, as only Nick is able to do.  My heart melted as I saw him enter the church carrying his bag of goodies.  Nothing is too much trouble for Nick.  He is always there.  Always on duty.  Nick misses nothing and expects nothing in return for his service and commitment.  He may be one of many, but there are none like him.

Each and every person is involved in other work throughout the community, much of it voluntary.  Lives of living daily sacrifice.  Only today I don’t see anything but love.  Complete selfless acts of love and generosity.  I stand in wonder and awe as I look upon my big (in spirit) beautiful church family.

 

 

 

 

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Finding the Way of Christ in Community

A few have asked to read Sunday’s talk.  I would have liked to have ended with a fabulous link to the Lord’s Prayer.  I also considered handing out envelopes, each with a name of someone on our electoral roll to hold in prayer.  In the end, it would have been adding too many elements for this particular talk.  Another time!  Yours, in faith!

The Lord’s Prayer

Finding the Way

 

 

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The Christmas Story revisited, but is it true? What do you believe?

Helen invited us to listen to this story of Jesus at our last Home Group.  What do you believe?

It is the beginning of December and we are at the start of Advent, and the western world is starting to think about Christmas. I have often wondered how we could explain the importance of the Christmas story to people who don’t really know what it is all about – .
So tonight that’s what we are going to think about. But in a different way.

It is approaching Christmas time, and the world is busy getting it’s gifts ordered, the tills are ringing out across the land, people are planning their new clothes and their trips to see family and their huge food orders, and most have forgotten, or perhaps some never knew that we are really here to celebrate the birth of a baby boy called Jesus.

The baby was born to a woman called Mary- Joseph wasn’t the father. The baby was born in poverty in a stable at a very busy time in history, when people were moving in convoy from place to place. In this case Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem in Judea. Not very different then from the babies being born to migrants moving across Europe in the present day. Or in fact to thousands of families across the world whose futures are uncertain. Babies are born to unmarried mothers, in poverty, in difficult circumstances every day of the year.

But this baby, we are told, was special. Wise and learned men travelled to see him because they followed the stars because the stars told them that a king had been born. Humble shepherds left their flocks of sheep on the hills and travelled to the town to search for this baby.

Angels appeared to people to pass on the message that the baby would be born. An Angel came to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and told of this child/ Angels visited the shepherds and told them too. The King was so worried about this baby and what it would mean to himself and his position that he ordered mass infanticide to try to ensure that the baby would not be a threat. This story was recorded for history in the Gospels, and by the Romans. So it must be true.

It was the most important birth in the history of the world, more than the birth of a king or of an emperor. Because this baby was born of God. Because this baby was born to save the world from sin. Because this baby was born to die. Not like you and I are born knowing that death is the inevitable end of life. He was born to die on a cross, as the son of God, a living saviour.

First though he became a teacher. He was found at the young age of twelve in the temple with the teachers in the temple and they were amazed at his intelligent questions and answers. It must have been obvious then that this boy was special, that he stood apart from his peers. We don’t really know much about him after that until he was about 30, and that for the next 3 years he taught people, through stories and parables, that he healed people, that he had a group of disciples who helped in his works and teachings, and he told people that he was the son of God. People followed him. You would expect them to laugh and jeer and think he was too big for his boots, but people followed him, they came to hear him preach, to see him heal and even to raise the dead to life.

But he was ordered to be put to death.

This baby was born to die, on a cross, as the son of God, a living saviour. He died a painful and humiliating death. He was forced to carry his own cross through the streets whilst the crowd jeered at him. Imagine if you can the weight of that cross on his shoulders, and the heat of the sun on his head and his back, and the stones under his feet. So he was humbled and humiliated. They forced a crown of thorns onto his head, so his back was in pain from the weight of the cross and his head was bleeding from the thorns being pushed down as a taunt – so you think you’re a king do you?” Imagine the blood mixing with the sweat and running into his eyes and his mouth, and knowing all the time that at the end of this ordeal he was going to die.

And then they nailed him to the cross. Can you imagine the searing pain as the nails tore through his flesh. If you raise your left hand into the air, and then using a finger on your right hand, press as hard as you can with the your finger nail. Not pleasant not nice. A bit uncomfortable maybe. Now imagine a blunt and square nail, and it is being hammered into the palm of your hand, tearing the flesh into a ragged wound, breaking the bones as it goes in, and you are conscious and the crowd is baying and cheering. And you know that you have done nothing wrong. So the weight of your body is being supported by just your hands with the nails through them, and then the soldiers do the same to your feet.

So why did Christ let them do this to him. This is the man who could walk on water. This is the man who could turn water into wine. This is the man who was so powerful that he could cast spirits out of men, who could heal just by faith and the touch of his cloak.

Why didn’t he shout – God save me?
Why didn’t he tear apart the cross and the nails with a crash of thunder?
   Why didn’t the Angels of God come down to release him?

Because he needed to die, so that he could take on the sin of the world. He needed to die so that those of us who believe in him will find salvation. And he needed to die so that he could rise again, so that he would Become immortal.

He was the lamb of God, and as a lamb he was hung for a sheep.

What kind of love could have died to give us life?  Think about this story this Christmas.  What do you believe?

 

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Sing and Share, a musical encounter

The event on 26 April included a musical encounter with the newly refurbished organ played by an accomplished organist from Bristol!  Like all Sing and Share services, this was a one-off.

Pictures from another encounter with the master rebuilder of the organ are below.  An evening of Bach delighted all.

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At the end of the evening, a feast, remembering Linda’s father’s 90th birthday.

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