I’m happy to report that the Garden Wing (wooden huts, ex POW camp) has now been razed to the ground, and replaced by a very swish new conference hall and assorted seminar rooms etc. Having been in the main house last time, with a room that boasted not a single power socket, I was relieved to be in a very comfy en suite room, with a good friend who didn’t mind my nocturnal habits (how can you go to bed, when there are so many wonderful people you could be engaging with?) …and the conference……..well, it was really rather good.
I didn’t spend enough time actually looking for God……but nonetheless He turned up in unexpected moments of grace. On Tuesday, we’d planned our informal morning worship around the theme of Brokenness (using material which Justin and Mark had used at The Fountain) . Irony of ironies, the DVD misbehaved, - broken…though Mark was so swift to pick up the crisis, some people truly didn’t realise anything was wrong. The service included the smashing of a large terracotta pot which had stood in our garden when we arrived here, unusable for planting due to a large crack….The moment when it was smashed was very dramatic…noise, violent movement and then the fragments lying on a white cloth in absolute stillness (attempt to photograph failed, I fear). We invited people to take a piece away “as a symbol of Christ’s vulnerability for your sake, of your own brokenness and of his power at work in you, healing your wounds and making all things new”
By the sort of coincidence that I ought not to wonder at any longer, the keynote speaker that morning was Sr Frances Dominica of Helen House, who made most of us cry with her words about abandonment (“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)” and brokenness in the lives of the families with whom she works. Towards the end, I felt that I wasn’t coping and fished out my piece of pottery…only to see 2 or 3 others further along the row doing the same thing.
We are always the broken body
But the word to us in Jesus Christ is that
We are made whole and enough for the task
Go, with the grace of God into this day
To heal and be healed in His name.
Later in the week, our final morning worship focussed on Mercy and ended with words I’d built around those of Teresa of Avila
Surely goodness and mercy follow us every day of our lives
Making good our shortcomings
And breathing new life into all that is fragile and inadequate.
Springs of mercy well up
Even from our inmost hurts
And through God the valley of tears
Becomes a place of refreshment
Having received God’s mercy
Go to share it with a needy world
For God has no body now on earth but ours
No hands, no feet, on earth but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which He looks.
compassion on this world
Ours are the feet
With which He walks to do good.
Ours are the hands
With which He blesses all his people
Now and to the end of ages.
So may we go, blessed to be a blessing
In the name of Christ
It was rather wonderful to find myself singing those same words, beautifully set by David Ogden, in the final Eucharist a few hours later.
In between, there were lots of good conversations, some inspiring words (notably from Tim Sledge on Fresh Expressions) some time gently gazing at God in the labyrinth and an amazing performance by Roly Bain, whose holy foolery turned me inside out, as I laughed and cried and redrew my emotional map in all sorts of unexpected ways. His really is a remarkable ministry.
So..there it all was. And here I am home again….and desperately trying to get things sorted for the Bishop’s visit on Sunday and the launch of OpenHouse. More later…