Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christmas crafting with Mary: another entry in the dictionary for everyday spirituality

I continue to find enormous enrichment from Rowan Williams Advent reflections, Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin. I’m into a second daily devotional read. And I think it will inform the service of ordination sermon I’m down to preach on December 5. Here’s what I read today:

Mary, one legend says, was brought up in the Temple precincts; and, like the other young ladies living in this rather strange boarding school, she was occupied for a lot of her time in weaving the veil of the sanctuary. When they drew lots, she was assigned the weaving of the purple and the scarlet thread, and was sent home to Nazareth to spin. She takes up the scarlet wool; pauses to go to the well for water and is greeted by the Gabriel as she goes. But she sees no one and returns, anxious and flustered, to the spinning wheel. This time, she takes up the purple – and Gabriel stands before her and announces her future. (60)

While this is creative re-imagination, it does encourage a creative, crafted approach to Christmas and Christian spirituality. It is an invitation to craft, to hand-make Christmas cards, to paint an icon, to bake some Christmas muffins. And in these very acts of domesticity, to expect that encounter with God and an invitation to bear new life, that spirituality can be woven into the fabric of our ordinary lives, that discernment of God’s threads in our life need not be instant, but can be slowly unravelled.

(I’m also adding this to the A-Z dictionary of everyday spirituality. In this case C is for crafts. For more on domestic spirituality, especially in regard to gender, see here.)

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

P is for posture: dictionary of everyday contemporary spirituality

A recent visit to the Tate Modern saw me parked in front of the art of German photographer Thomas Struth. It was his Museum series, in which he takes seemingly ordinary shots of people entering churches, museums and other public places. (So this is my photo of his photo. The people are in the photo!)

I loved the layers; me looking at others who are looking.

I was fascinated by the wee girl looking in. You almost think she’s wanting to climb in and be with Jesus, until you realise she’s just a viewer. Like me. So how do I position myself in relation to the way of Jesus and his table manners? Am I climbing in?

And then those who look away. They seem to be passing by. You wonder how closely they looked. And you begin to wonder if viewing is a discipline and a practice. That how we position ourselves is a decision.

When I look at the work of Thomas Struth, I think about posture. (In this sense, very similar to the works by another German, Sieger Koder, whom I have written about in another context (summary here)). How do we place ourselves in relation to the world around us and the story of Jesus? Are we walking on by, bored and busy? Or are we taking the time to pause and enter?

For the index in the Dictionary of Everyday spirituality, go here.

Posted by steve at 09:03 AM

Saturday, October 09, 2010

dictionary of everyday contemporary spirituality: O is for origami boats

Over last weekend I spoke to a group about hospitality and mission. I began with Brendan the Navigator and his story of Irish pilgrimage, of setting sail in response to God’s call, with 12 friends but without a rudder. It’s a powerful story of simple trust – trust in the wind (of the Spirit) to lead and guide!

Given they are all adult-learners, who learn in different ways, I then paused and invited them to engage the theme not only by ears, but also by hands. I invited them to make and to name their “mission” boat. This would involve me supplying paper and an origami pattern, and them making a boat out of origami. And as they played, to reflect upon what word or phrase might best describe their mission dreams. If you like, to christen their mission boat.

Much fun, laughter and group work began. As there should be among adult learners! We broke for a cup of tea and upon return, I invited reflection on what people might have been thinking and processing as they made their origami mission boats.

It was a great exercise, was the common response. We enjoyed the creativity.

But it got me thinking, one person commented. As I made my boat, I was so intent on following the origami pattern, so worried about getting it right. Then I remembered the story of Brendan the Navigator. That had no pattern. That had no instructions.

So I stopped.

And so I started my boat again.

I’ve thrown away the pattern and I’m just having a go. It might not work. The boat might sink. That’s the risk. But isn’t that always the risk of mission? Sometimes, don’t we need to throw away the pattern and just explore?

What a great response, I commented back. There is so much pressure to read the books, buy the programmes, keep up with the “name” church down the road. And yet so much of our mission challenge today is about simply listening to the unique work of the Spirit in us and in our communities.

(This is another entry in a dictionary of everyday spirituality. While God is everywhere, sadly sometimes Christianity reduces God to Sunday and to buildings. In honour of a God who by definition belongs in all of everyday life this blog is developping a dictionary of everyday spirituality. For an index of all the entries, go here).

Posted by steve at 10:29 AM

Friday, October 08, 2010

a dictionary of everyday contemporary spirituality

God is everywhere. While sadly sometimes Christianity reduces God to Sunday and to buildings, God by very definition belongs in all of everyday life. In honour of this, I’m starting a new major category on my blog – a dictionary of everyday spirituality. My goal is to build, from A to Z, a dictionary of everyday contemporary spirituality.

Here is the project so far …

B is for billboards.

B is also for blossom. And here, as a workplace moment of grace.

C is for clutter

C is also for crafts.

F is for furniture restoration

H is for hairdressers

L is for lamsp – pocket lamps.

M is for magpies

M is also for marketing

M is also for mat (specifically a mat on the floor of a central city business).

M is also for migrants.

M is also for milestones

O is for origami boats

P is for peace-treating.

P is also for a Pentecost practice of slow growth.

P is also for posture

R is for renovation.

S is for saints.

S is also for spring

S is also for sh*t

S is also for supermarket trolleys.

T is for thanksgiving.

T is also for transitions

U is for undercoating.

W is for white doves.

W is also for work

Posted by steve at 05:49 PM