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Voice 39: various Good Friday voices

Today we welcome contributions from some of our 40 Voices contributors who have offered music, words and images for you to pray with through Good Friday.

Our thanks to  Sally Coleman, Ruth Parry, Graham Jones, Mark Stennet, Tim Baker, Lin Fidgin, Elizabeth Stanforth – Sharpe, Victoria Etherington.

Please pray with any that you are drawn to.

Music

 

 

Art

IMG_4958

 

Words

The voices are those of John and Mary mother of Jesus

 

I couldn’t leave him,

Yet I couldn’t bear to look …

he was my friend…

my wonderful, beautiful friend…

 

I couldn’t leave him,

Yet I couldn’t bear to look…

my son, my beautiful son

disfigured and broken

 

He was dying…

 

Dying…

 

Dying

 

*(Pause)

 

Whipped within an inch of his life,

 

Nails through his hands and his feet,

 

Whipped,

 

Hung on a cross

 

He was dying

 

Dying

 

Dying…

 

*(Pause)

 

I could hear his pain filled

gasping breaths….

 

His groans as he fought

to bear his weight

 

and I wept….

 

I could do nothing but weep….

 

*(Pause)

 

Then he thought of me…

 

He thought of me….

And he called me friend,

 

…..me, Mother….

 

And he gave us to one another;

 

Mother…

 

…and son

 

He was dying and he thought of me

 

He was dying and he thought of me

 

He was dying and he thought of me…

                                                                                   Sally Coleman

 

The Olive trees are now in full flower – ancient trees bringing new life each year. In the old hollow trunk of one tree are stored the tools with which to tend this garden – a natural garden shed. The perfume of roses hangs delicately in the air and the hollyhocks are in their full and stately splendour, the birds sing and I notice a small Olive Tree sapling – newly planted and watered. It is a Friday so there is less traffic on the road and so it is more peaceful than it is sometime. The grey-green of the leaves rippling in the breeze are so calming – so strange that this beautiful and peaceful place is a place of agony. As I sit in this garden, so poignant, my soul feels refreshed as I notice the words on the plaque in the photograph – in English and German and I pray “Lord God, I do not understand the world, I do not understand this place, I do not understand myself – but YOU – I trust. Amen.

Ruth Parry

garden

 

Secondhand.

No, I don’t think each miscreant had a new one.

Caesar had better use for tribute money.

Somewhere there must have been a store of them

Made by a local carpenter. Who knows

What he thought of his work. Did he think

Not for me, ye gods! Ha! Not for me!

Smoothing the wood a bit in a half-shamed way.

Dislike the job, but wife and kids to support.

Or, didn’t he think at all?

 

He wasn’t skilled, perhaps. Short and strong-backed

With the strength needed for that clumsy job.

Or, was he skilled? Making a bit on the side

With crosses, easy work, as overtime.

 

Did he know that other joiner, at Nazareth?

Joseph? Just heard of him. Some fuss with his eldest son.

Turned out queer, didn’t he? Didn’t follow the trade.

 

Somewhere there must have been a store of them.

Filthy. The sour wood smelling still of pain.

Brought out. Inspected. Used again. And again.

 

I think the nails were new.

 

There must have been holes waiting for them.

Round holes. Drilled in the shallow, stony soil.

Seldom rain-filled. Easy to drop a cross in.

Deep. To stand vertical with the heavy load.

A man-made tree on which men died.

 

After one Death. After the gash in the side.

The Cross taken down. The blood-soaked nails withdrawn…

Did that Cross go back to the store?

Who used it afterwards? Who hung

On the same Rood

Where once hung God?

                                                             Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe.

 

 

Images

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Voice 38: Rev’d Gill Newton, Chair of the Sheffield District

Revd. Gill Newton currently serves as the Chair of the Sheffield District of the Methodist Church.  She was previously the Superintendent of the Bramhall and Wythenshawe Circuit in the Manchester and Stockport District and before that started out in ministry in the Barnsley Circuit where she eventually served alongside her husband Leslie as Co-Superintendent and was also the Synod Secretary for the Sheffield District.

Prior to ministry Gill worked as a banker for the TSB, serving in a variety of towns in the West Country but ending her banking career as a retail branch manager in Dorchester and Weymouth, in Dorset, whilst living in Yeovil in Somerset from where she candidated for ministry.

Gill lives in Strensall, York with her husband Leslie who currently serves as the Superintendent of the York Circuit, but they will be moving along with their 17-year old daughter Laura to Acomb, York later this summer in order for Leslie to take up his post as the Chair of the Yorkshire (North and East) District in September.

Beyond the Methodist Church, Gill serves Girls’ Brigade England and Wales as their National Chaplain and is also a member of the Walk to Emmaus Community.

GN family

As a child and teenager growing up in the Methodist Church in Cornwall and also being nurtured in faith through the Girls’ Brigade, I was actively encouraged by youth leaders, brigade officers and family members to make prayer a natural part of my daily routine. That’s something I’ve tried to do ever since, but I have to admit that finding time for prayer every day in a structured way can sometimes be a struggle and it seems to have become increasingly difficult since taking up my current role almost three years ago!

So, when I have a quiet day at home my daily devotions take the form of reading scripture, reflecting on that with the help of some bible reading material and also making use of both the Connexional Prayer Handbook, the District Prayer Handbook and my prayer diary in which I record what I’ve prayed about and what response I have noticed.  This gives me focus and encourages me as I note where God has been and continues to be at work in me, in those I care about, in those I live and work alongside and in the wider world.

GN Prayer

However, the nature of my current District-wide role and the fact that I actually live beyond the boundaries of the District that I serve, means that I spend a great deal of time driving.  Fortunately, it’s something that I enjoy most of the time, and within the necessary constraints of paying attention to what’s happening on the road around me, I have found that it provides me with a wonderful gift of time; time in which I am able to think, reflect and pray about and for the District that I serve and the people amongst whom I find myself within this role.

What I see around me as I drive from home into the Sheffield District and then around the District prompts my prayers:

The beauty of the countryside reminds me of a Creator God who made and loves me as well as everything else around me that I see, experience and enjoy.

The roads, railways and other transport links remind me of the freedom I have to move around and of my connectedness to others across the District, the Connexion and the world.

The churches remind me of the many faithful people who are living out their discipleship within South Yorkshire and of the wonderful commitment they show to sharing God’s love in the communities they serve.

The buildings in villages, towns and cities remind me of the wonderful partnerships that we enjoy with others in our communities, local authorities and amongst our ecumenical partners and of the places where we long for doors to open.

And many, many other scenes that I encounter as I travel, cause me to be thankful, or to pray for an individual, or a situation, or a group of people, or a challenge, or an opportunity.

All of these people and all of these places are part of God’s wonderful creation and as I pray for them and sometimes with the people and in the places, I am reminded that I am called to serve in the beautiful places and in the tough places, amongst the committed people and the disinterested people, alongside those who are experiencing life as a good thing at the moment and those who are finding life incredibly tough.

On this Maundy Thursday, when we remember that most famous symbol of service exercised by Jesus, as he washed the feet of his disciples, I am challenged about the level of service that I am actually willing to offer, not just to those amongst whom I am called to work and minister, but to anyone that I encounter in my daily life, as I move around the Sheffield District.

Mark’s gospel reminds us that “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  So I serve because that is what Jesus did and does. Serving is at the very heart of who God is, so to be a servant is to be like God and when we serve others, we reflect God’s heart and love for others.

But, you won’t be surprised to know that, as I make my way around the Sheffield District, sharing in people’s lives, noticing what’s going on in villages and towns and cities across the area, I don’t actually get to wash too many people’s feet!  But this story does remind me that really serving involves rolling up my sleeves, and being willing to get my hands dirty down amongst the not so pleasant aspects of life, the bits that sometimes we’d rather leave untouched or covered up.

GN bowl

So, my prayer, as I drive around the District or sit in a train will forever be, that through my praying; my speaking to, listening for and being in the presence of God; I might become more aware of the needs of those amongst whom I spend my time.  But also, that through my praying, I might be changed to be more like Jesus who calls us to serve, who calls us to love one another and who calls us to create community all of which is beautifully summed up in this song by Michael Card:

And the call is to community

In an upstairs room, a parable is just about to come alive,
And while they bicker about who’s best, with a painful glance, He’ll silently rise
Their Saviour Servant must show them how,

Through the will of the water and the tenderness of the towel.

And the call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place, on any ordinary day
The parable can live again,  when one will kneel and one will yield
Our Saviour Servant must show us how
Through the will of the water and the tenderness of the towel

The space between ourselves sometimes is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow we take up the basin and the towel

And the call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow that day after day we must take up the basin
And the call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow  that day after day we must take up the basin
That day after day we must take up the basin
That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel
Take up the basin and the towel.

Voice 37: Carol Carter, Micro YPS, York and Hull District

Carol Carter is part of the York and Hull district team who run the MicroYPS project for young people (soon to be re-branded ONE Opportunity).  She lives in York with her husband and teenage son.

 

We are all busy and taking time out to spend with God is hard.  I am not a person who is good at sitting still and certainly not good at keeping quiet, as those who know me will testify!

From a young age I have always enjoyed colouring, whether it be large printed picture posters or the 1980’s Altair design pattern books.  It is something that I find relaxing and allows me time to sit still and quiet while still doing something.  I continued my love of colouring into adulthood and my husband will tell you I even tracked down a Rosie and Jim colouring book to take on a canal boat holiday when I was about 25 years old.  But I really appreciated the times I spent sitting colouring at the front of a canal boat slowly gliding along and seeing God’s natural world passing by.

It was my husband who first introduced me to the Lindisfarne Scriptorium – a small business located on Lindisfarne who use the celtic traditions of illuminated gospels to create artwork and books.  My favourite things that they produce are their colouring sheets and books.  Beautifully illustrated designs based on scripture verses or Christian truths ready for you to colour as you wish.  I am now the owner of 5 of their books and when I spend time colouring I use that time to reflect, pause and pray, losing myself in the design and the words.

I have often taken the books on retreats, holidays, quiet days and will make sure I have one with me if we are away from home at Christmas or Easter so that I might try to find a quiet time in the busy family celebrations for a bit of colouring and reflection.

During the time I have been working on MicroYPS we have used colouring as a reflective activity with the young people on their residential weekends and it has always proved popular.

I have also used it on a family retreat day we ran in the York circuit a few years ago and again it was a popular activity for all ages attending.

Family retreat day

For the children in our churches I think it is something they recognise as fun but it might also still their bodies and minds more than some other activities we offer, giving them a chance to reflect and pray.  For the young people it seemed to be a safe activity, you cannot do it wrong and again it offered a quiet reflective time.  While for adults, like me, if feels creative without the pressure of actually creating something from scratch.  For me there is nothing worse than being faced with a piece of blank paper and being asked to draw/paint/create something!  The colouring books/sheets give me a place to start from – I can add my own creativity with the colours and patterns I choose and that is enough!

Colouring is such a current ‘thing’ that you can pick up a colouring book for adults in nearly every shop you visit but is it something you have ever considered as a way of communicating with God?  You don’t have to be colouring a scriptural inspired picture but maybe having such a design would help.   Lindisfarne Scriptorium have many different colouring books, posters etc that you can purchase for yourself or maybe as a gift for someone else?  A more recent development is that they now have many of their pictures available as digital downloads so you can pay once and print as many as you wish at whatever size you wish.  See their online shop for full details: https://www.lindisfarne-scriptorium.co.uk/

Happy Colouring!

colouring

Voice 36: Poppy Winks and young people from Nidd Valley Circuit

My name is Poppy Winks; I’m a proud Yorkshire Lass, a habitual tea-Drinker, an injustice-fighter and a (cheesy) pop music lover. I am also a Trustee for GFS in England and Wales, a Girlguiding Leader and the Youth Development Worker for Nidd Valley Methodist Circuit.

 

I have always struggled with prayer. I think it might stem from the fact that, even though I was brought up in Christian home, my family also struggle with it too. I was never the child who kneeled beside my bed to pray, mainly because I had a bunk bed though, I think. As I got older I stopped even thinking about praying, I put it to the bottom of my to-list. I convinced myself it isn’t a necessary part of being a Christian. I know, I know…

When I left university, I was an Intern at Christian Aid for ten months; and in these ten months I saw just what prayer can do. I spent time with people who had done everything they could to try to right the injustices in the world. They had raised thousands of pounds, and signing every petition that had passed in front of them. But instead of feeling powerless, like they aren’t making a difference; they turned to God. They knew that God, felt their frustration, wept with them and then filled them with the fire to carry on.

While I was Christian Aid, I finally realised that prayer didn’t have to feel like a burden. That praying was my time to tell God the things I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone else about it. I starting to feel more willing and able to take ten minutes out of my day, just to be with God and listen. However, there is a massive difference between being comfortable praying and guiding young people in thinking about prayer.

When I accepted my current job, I had around four months before I started the role. In those months, I devoured every book about young people, especially on working with those in churches.

The majority of these books talk about the importance of prayer, and encouraging young people to have good prayer life. But none of them broke it down; how do you pray? Prayer is often difficult for young people to comprehend, I find. I mean, up to the age of 21 I found it difficult and I still don’t find it easy. You’re asking questions, and not feeling like you’re getting a direct answer. You’re suffering and not hearing a voice of comfort; or your ‘shopping list ‘prayer isn’t listened to, and if it is how do you know when it’s not acknowledged.

Then last year I read Miranda Threlfall-Holmes book ‘The Little Book of Prayer Experiments’, and it changed everything. It answered not only the how but the why, and even, sometimes, the when.

Since then I have tried a number of the prayer experiments in the book with a few of my youth groups and I’ve done them myself too, of course. My favourite, and the young people’s favourite too, was the prayer den experiment.

In Threlfall-Holmes’s book she says that the experiment takes the idea of a small prayerful space to the next level. Our young people began with choosing a corner of our youth room with their partner. Some used a wall, others moved furniture around, one group even tipped over the sofa and used the space underneath it.

pw1

We then had a huge bag of sheets and decorations, and the young people brought some of their own bits including fairy lights, camouflage coverings and wind up lanterns. It was at this point I wondered if I had mistakenly said we were going to be recreating a Bear Grylls mission, but never mind.

pw2

Our young people spent near on fifteen minutes creating their masterpieces. There was almost silence as they worked as a team to assemble their creations. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t hear some huffing and puffing, and a few cross words, but that’s young people for you.

 

pw3Once they had finished, and their dens had of course been judged on beauty by one of our leaders (the young people were desperate to know who’s was the best). They got inside their dens, made themselves comfortable and we began. Saying we began, insinuates that their prayer was led, but all we did as sit in absolute silence for fifteen minutes. Some young people had some colouring sheets to help them focus their minds, but the others just did their own thing.

Now if you have ever done youth work, you will know how rare it is to have fifteen minutes of complete silence. Usually we can’t even manage that during a film, or when silence is the preferred thing. But as that moment, with fairy lights casting a glow across the room, I could see what prayer is. I could feel God in that moment. I had managed to help young people to listen and hear God in a way I never could do when I was their age.

pw4

Once our young people emerged, stretching and yawning, I asked them what they thought. The consensus was that this was something they wanted to do again, and that they even liked the sound of having a permanent prayer den in our youth room.

Fifteen minutes of dedicated time with God, and my young people were already more willing to make time and space for God in their life.

I mean, that’s exactly why I do what I do, isn’t it!

 

 

Voice 35: Katrin Hackett, Administrator, Sheffield District.

Katrin is one of the administrators for the Sheffield District, based in Victoria Hall Methodist Church. She  is also a church worship leader and circuit steward.

I am one of those people who finds it very hard to sit still and do nothing. On long journeys I will usually have some kind of knitting on the go (currently knitting hobo bags), and even when watching TV I will often be simultaneous doing a craft project. So sitting in quiet prayer or meditation is a real challenge for me; I have to really concentrate to keep my thoughts focussed – I am so easily distracted.

I often say I have the best job in the world as it is flexible with regard to my working hours, makes use of my organisational and IT skills, and is incredibly varied – no 2 days are ever the same. The same can also be said of my journey in. Whilst I can catch a bus (and on occasion will drive), my preferred mode of transport is cycling.

20170406_172216Out on the bike, I find I am much more aware of my surroundings than when on the bus or in the car. The warmth of the sun, a cooling breeze or sudden gust of wind that rocks me sideways, snow, rain, hail – there was one day when I had all of these in the course of the 15 minute journey in.

20170406_173920I notice the road surfaces – looking out for the smoothest path, avoiding the potholes. I really notice the difference between Abbeydale Road, which has been resurfaced, and London Road – which hasn’t. It is interesting that even the smoothest looking road will still have uneven patches, parts that have sunk or become slightly raised.

20170406_174719I find this time – when there will be no phone calls, or other distractions, a time when I can also concentrate more on God. Often I will find myself singing a song or hymn that seems to fit with the rhythm of the bike.  I will rehearse in my mind the tasks that I hope to achieve that day – and can use this time to put them into God’s hands as well.

20161214_102840As I cycle along the road I notice the changes – I love the monsters that appeared on the bollards overnight -;  I go past shops, some (likeButterworths Bikes) that have been there for 3 generations, others, such as the Forge Bakery, are just starting up. Then, when Abbeydale Road becomes London Road I become aware of what a rich, diverse city Sheffield is, with the wide range of restaurants – Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Vietnamese, to name a few.

At this time of Lent I am always reminded of the poem by William Arthur Ward – Fasting and Feasting. Some of the lines will stay with me on my ride, and I use them as a prompt to pray – for people and for situations, for others  …  and for myself. 

Fasting and Feasting

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life

Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from worry; feast on trust.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. We shout our Hosannas and welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.

Here is a  reading from the Gospel of Mark and a short video for you to pray with.

You may also like to look back over the praying voices of the past week – what are you drawn to? What do you want to say to God?

Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

The he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went to Bethany with the twelve.