Harvest at Tewkesbury Methodist Church

Well, we have had a really busy Sunday at TMC today. It all began as every 1st Sunday does with breakfast praise. Over a hearty breakfast we heard the story of stone soup and then, in a really creative activity, using natures own gifts – conkers, acorns, leaves and twigs – we made some great pieces of art work. The point of the exercise, like the point of the story of stone soup, was to discover how much better we are able to do things when we work together than when we try to go it alone. Thank you to Clair for leading us this morning and for so many of you turning up.

Most people then went into church for the harvest festival service. The church looked beautiful and as usual people gave so very generously the many gifts that will be given to various causes in and around Tewkesbury.  It all went really well except for the projector which seemed to go on strike immediately before the service, but we carried on regardless and improvised where necessary.

After the service a wonderful lunch was enjoyed by some 50 of us thanks to the catering team. They had already been hard at work having cooked breakfast for the early service but true to form they took it all in their stride and produced a superb lunch. Thank you to Gill, Jean, Lin and the team.

Blessings, J

Contemplative Silence – A daily routine

To find the still point within our own soul is to find that space where God’s ground meets our ground. To intentionally take regular (preferably daily) time in that space is to discover God’s ‘still small voice’ which we hear through the ‘ear of the heart’ as Saint Benedict describes it. Over time, if we are committed to listening and attending to this voice we find ourselves changing from within. It may not be even noticeable at first, only as we look back over time do we realise that our patterns of responding to the world have changed. We may generally feel more at peace, less likely to judge, more able to let go of our defences and more able to see the world from another’s perspective. Indeed we are becoming more ‘comfortable in our own home’ as Henri Nouwen puts it. Our soul is becoming a more hospitable place for God and for the world.

As our spiritual chemistry changes, we move increasingly towards a non dual perspective. God no longer seems separate. We begin to feel a fusion as the boundaries between God’s ground and our ground becomes more porous. We also begin to feel less separate from others. Although we understand ourselves to be distinct from God and others (including all creation) there is nevertheless a burgeoning sense of wholeness that pervades and we feel ourselves to be at one with all being. Compassion develops, wisdom speaks, and our inner senses develop such as; intuitive understanding, creative expression and most importantly a call to serve. Contrary to what many believe the contemplative path is ultimately about serving the world and not withdrawing from it!

The most noticeable change perhaps is the conscious awakening to the experience of God being fully present within us (even if we struggle to reciprocate at times) and an increasing sense of that fusion between God’s ground and our own ground – the movement towards union.

Committing to daily practice is not easy, the busyness of life takes over and such a practice is seen as the least urgent of the many things that we have to attend to. But to create a daily ‘habit’ so that it becomes as automatic as showering or brushing teeth will, overtime, change the spiritual chemistry as I have described. We are all mystics in the making…the secret is to regularly attend to the ever present God within you as if it were the most important thing in your daily routine.

Of course it may be that you do not feel this inner path is for you. It doesn’t mean that God is not fully present within you, that is a given! Sometimes its just about timing or God working with you in different ways. You will know intuitively whether the contemplative path is right for you or not at this time…just trust your own knowing. Jayne

Happy New Year

Well, here we are again, a whole new Methodist year!

It kicked off yesterday evening with a welcome service for the three new ministers being welcomed into the Gloucestershire circuit – one of whom is our new superintendent Rev. John Hellyer and also Revd’s Rachel Leather and John McNeill.

As of today there is a change in our own section as we say goodbye to Hartpury and Tibberton who will both be going into the central circuit. We also welcome Winchcombe whom together with Apperley and Tewkesbury will form a new section…north east of the circuit. Please remember that on 14th September there will be afternoon tea at TMC for those leaving and those joining the section.

This coming Saturday we have a whole new group starting called Viriditas where we will be looking at all aspects of caring for the environment both from a practical and spiritual perspective. This will be held in church at TMC and will begin at 10.00. As this is the first meeting we will most likely be setting the agenda for the coming year and sharing ideas for events, speakers and so on. All are welcome.

Looking slightly ahead in the Year we have an inclusivity workshop at TMC on 23rd November led by Simon Culley. Please let myself or a steward know at TMC if you would like to attend it will start at 1.45 and finish at 4.15. This is all part of our ongoing commitment to be included in the Inclusive Churches register.

Looking much further ahead in this coming connexional year we have booked another house group retreat which will this time be held at Holland House (pictured above) on 13th June 2020. Please see Peter Dickenson to book.

So this is just a taster, on this first day of the New Year, of what is to come. There are many other events, festivals, services and activities planned for the coming year so watch this space and, of course, check the website.

Blessings, Jayne

Harvest…The old ways

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.  
Jeremiah 6:16

As we find ourselves in the harvest season I want to explore the ‘old ways’ of celebrating which would have begun on 1st August with Lughnassa. This is the last of the fire festivals in the celtic year and it is the time when the sun begins to weaken as it makes its way towards the equinox in September.

The festival is a celebration of the grain harvest. It is the time when the first corn would be harvested, during the waning moon, and the first loaf would be baked and offered to the deity in thanksgiving. 

This would have been a time when the whole community would engage in the activities of harvest and these would last right up until Samhain on 31st October which was the eve of the celtic new year.

The survival of the community depended upon their intimate knowledge of nature and her cycles for ploughing, sowing, reaping and resting. At harvest time they would need to ensure there was enough produce to see them through the winter months and so the activities of gathering, preparing, curing animal meats and storing was a vital work but even more important was the thanksgiving and the celebration as this lifting up their gratitude to the deity would ensure that whole cycle would continue year after year.

As the christianity came to the British Isles, these pagan festivals were assimilated into the new religion. Lughnassa became Lammas  (loaf mass), and the offering of a loaf, made from the first harvest continued; but now the loaf was offered in church and the congregation would sing their thanksgiving to God the Lord of the harvest. 

The tradition gradually died out and now harvest festival is celebrated in the church much later in the quarter. The traditional harvest worship that we are familiar with today was first established by Reverend R S Hawker in Morwenstow, Cornwall in 1843. Church goers of today know and love those victorian harvest hymns which originated at time.

But today’s harvest celebrations are nothing like those very  early festivals. We have lost touch with the ‘old ways’. The community has become disconnected from the land. We no longer have to think about winter storage. We no longer all get involved with the gathering in, indeed we are probably not even aware of where most of the food we consume was produced in the first place. Unfortunately we have long since lost our intuitive relationship with nature and knowledge of seasonal produce and lunar cycles.  The community celebrations if they are held at all are usually a token gesture may be a supper in the village hall or maybe lunch following the harvest service at church but is it rarely a whole community event.

So, not only has our relationship with nature been compromised, our understanding of God’s provision and our and  for it has also been greatly diminished. 

Is it really any wonder then that we are facing environmental catastrophe? Those early pagan rites were about ensuring the health and wellbeing of nature as much as the community and for the modern pagan today, rekindling and reestablishing communion with nature is a vital part of the work.

And for us all, we should understand that repairing  the damage to our ravaged earth is so much more than sorting out our waste and recycling our plastics… That is just the practical level. Re-enlivening the spirit of community as well as developing a close understanding of nature and its cycles, our wildlife, and its needs are vitally important.

Perhaps above all though we must remember the importance of  celebration and thanksgiving, for this is to do with humility. It is to do with letting go of our egocentricity and rediscovering our relationship and interdependence with all creation and tour total dependence on the one through whom all things came into being.   

The Mystic Impulse

The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.’ Karl Rhaner

Religion can sometimes be a hostile environment for those who discover there a god who is controlling, judging and demanding adherence to a strict set of rules. This god is usually very remote from us, often up there in a geographical heaven and he (for this god is always a he) usually induces in us such guilt that it is often easier to walk away than to carry such a burden.

It always surprises me that 2000 years on from Christ’s coming (the very event that was supposed to lift us out of the bleakness of the remote god consciousness) that so many are still oppressed by it and struggle to live the abundant life that God intends for us.

Luke 17:21 tells us that God’s kingdom is not a geographical location at all but that it is within us. Some translations will say that it is among us and both would be right, but in my experience we have to discover it within us in order to know it among us. You see, the Kingdom of God is a state of consciousness that we have to wake up to. It is all around us and within us (that is all of us) yet hidden from sight, we have to awaken to its presence to recognise it. So often we sleepwalk through life to the extent that we have never begun to question who we really are or why the remote god bears absolutely no resemblance at all to the God that Christ came to share with us.

Christian mystics all through the ages would tell us that there is, deep within us, a hidden place untouched by this world, where God’s ground and our ground meets. If we could but awaken to the awareness of this ground we would begin to discover the presence of God within and among us. God… immanent…fully present…in the very depths of our being and in all creation. This is not to say that God isn’t also transcendent, the creator of all being, but that’s for another post.

For the Christian mystic the desire is to offer hospitality to this hidden, divine presence that it might blossom and grow and merge with the soul and in that sweet fusion the fullness of life that God intended for us is realised.

Jesus gives us the key to creating an inner space where we offer  God our hospitality, as follows;

• Love God before all else.

• Love neighbour as self.

• Forgive and…go on forgiving.

• Hold no grudges.

• Let go of your pride …humility is the most hospitable environment your soul can offer to God.

• Be thankful in all circumstances .God’s generosity is truly beyond your comprehension.

• Give generously without counting the cost.

These were never meant to be a set of behavioural or moralistic rules to be adhered to for fear of God, these are a natural part of the soul’s blossoming when it chooses to respond to the ever present God.

Oh, and one other thing. Jesus was forever encouraging us to wake up..advice that is central to the contemplative path.

The kingdom of God is closer to you than you are to yourself. Just turn your attention inwards and allow that mystic impulse to guide you. It won’t be the easiest path you have ever travelled but it is the way to heaven on earth.

Breakfast Praise

At breakfast praise last Sunday we heard the story of the tiny mustard seed which grew into a huge tree that was big enough to provide so much for so many creatures.

Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God is a bit like this. The tiniest little bit that we offer can grow into so much more than we can imagine.

We went on to explore how the little bit that we can each do to help our planet, in our homes and our gardens is really important and even if it doesn’t seem very much to us our efforts grow and joined together with the effort that everyone makes can make a huge impact.

Above is a picture of some trees the we made.

Breakfast as usual was yummy and it was great to see so many of all ages enjoy this very special time together with God.

Next one is on 1st September 9.15. All are welcome.

Jayne

Heavenly Honeysuckle

Figs are beginning to ripen; the air is fragrant with blossoming vines.Come then, my love; my darling, come with me. 
Song of Solomon 2:13

One of my earliest memories as a child is the fragrance from the honeysuckle that used to grow along the wall just outside my bedroom window. On a warm summer evening when the window was open that heady, luxurious, fragrance would permeate the room and it felt like peace and bliss all rolled into one.

Over the years the sweet fragrance of the honeysuckle has seemed like an anchor so that whenever I smell it, it takes me back to that blissful, secure, innocence of childhood which I might now describe as, using Julian of Norwich’s words …all manner of things being well.

Since those days I have always sought to grow honeysuckle in places where I live, if non is already is growing there. It’s perfume has never ceased to be one of my favourites of all time.

This year as I watched the tiny buds begin to form on the one that grows along the garden wall, I could hardly wait to enjoy that heady incense once again. Day by day I would go into the garden to check how close to flowering those tiny buds were.

As they grew, each day I would breath in deeply close by to see if I could catch an early waft of that heavenly scent even though I knew there would be none until the flower opened and blossomed. As I waited I marvelled at the tiny bud and how the vine, held hidden within it such a wondrous gift, yet only when the time was right would it’s perfume be released, it was not in my power to quicken the process.

Watching and waiting I was struck by how the sun draws each tiny, gravity defying honeysuckle bud to fullness when its inner wisdom declares the time is right. So too is this true with the blossoming of the soul. Hidden as it is, quietly tended by immanent wisdom – way beyond our conscious knowing – so the soul is drawn by God towards it’s blossoming in divine fullness.

Some may not even be aware of this inner working, some may have reached this full flowering and offer its fragrance in service to the world. Yet others are impatient for this unfolding…rather like me urging the honeysuckle to flower before it’s ready, but we have to learn that only wisdom deems when the time is right. There is no point in our forcing the journey. If we would only take a leaf (no pun intended) out of the honeysuckle’s book we would simply learn to just be…in the present moment…allowing nature to take its own course, each according to its type. Instead we fret and worry about all sorts of things which most often never come to pass…we try to control and direct what will be, often things that are not ours to control in the first place and in this modern tecnological world we are all subjected to time pressures that leave us stressed and anxious and so not able to hear the voice of wisdom within us that speaks so softly and tenderly.

Yet if we could hear that voice we would hear about a love for each and every one of us which constantly draws all of creation to itself.  We can resist it, but only for so long…in the end its strains will, rather like a heady scent, catch our attention and draw us too, to where peace and bliss truly are all rolled into one.  And so,  in the end, at the final reckoning, we will all know the truth spoken by that wonderful mystic, Julian of Norwich, that ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’

Jayne