Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part Fifteen

Still waiting to hear from David C Cook if I can continue to put these instalments here — but, for the moment; here you go! x

Monday, 29 June 2020

Sadness and online story-telling

An unforeseen glitch has assailed my online storytelling.

Though I hold the copyright to my work, the rights of it are leased to the publisher.

David C Cook has the rights (and this will include audio and video) to The Clear Light of Day, and Lion Hudson has the rights to A Day and a Life.

The Clear Light of Day was published (the David C Cook edition) in 2008, and A Day and a Life in 2015, since when neither publisher has chosen to take up their rights to produce an audio or video version of either book.

During the time of coronavirus many writers have been reading their work online to cheer up people confined at home — not for money, just to make life better. 

It does, of course, benefit the publisher of the work, since all publishers have been feeling the cold wind of coronavirus times, and people who enjoy what they have heard are more likely to buy a copy of it than are people who have never come across it.

Thus, in my naivety, I thought it would be just fine to read my stories to you online. I wasn't making money out of it — it was just nice. Had you decided to buy a copy of the story because you enjoyed it, well, 75% of the purchase price would go straight into the publisher's pocket. Having no audio or video version of their own to see, you'd have thought they'd be pleased, would you not?

However, today I heard (via my husband; they did not trouble to contact me directly) from Lion Hudson that they have a problem with my reading you my story without their permission.

That being the case, we are seeking permission for the videos to be left up for you to enjoy, but in the meantime I have sadly felt I must take them down. If you were halfway through the story, I am so sorry. If Lion Hudson decide they are willing to allow you to hear it, I'll put the videos back where they were.

Having realised the problem existed, I wrote to David C Cook to ask if it was okay for me to continue with The Clear Light of Day — explaining that I am making no money out of this, it's just for people's happiness and enjoyment. The lady at David C Cook got back to me very quickly, and said she would check and let me know. I'm sure she will — she is a most helpful and dependable person. Just for the moment I have left up The Clear Light of Day videos, while I wait for a response (so, catch up quick if you are two or three instalments behind), but I may have to remove them if David C Cook decide not to give their permission.

If permission is withheld, I'll see if I can get the rights back since neither publisher has chosen to take them up — but they may not agree, I'll just have to see.

And that, friends, is why you have no video with an instalment of the story today. 

If David C Cook come back to me saying it's okay to go ahead, then I'll record the next bit of the story for you as soon as I hear from them.

I am so sorry to disappoint you. 

If they say no, I do have a book of short stories that's gone out of print. I'll read you that.


Friday, 26 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part Twelve

Next instalment of our story.
There's a mistake in this. Playing it back, I realised I'd said "with incompetence", when I meant "with competence".
My apologies. Jabez was not an incompetent mechanic.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day – Part Eleven

Next bit of the story . . .

Enabling your spiritual cloud drive

Sometimes you write to me to ask for prayer when you’re going through tough times — whether a long-term slog through family challenges and responsibilities, or health struggles, or difficult times of transition. And of course I will pray for you if you ask me to.

But I thought it might also be helpful to explore an immense source of energy and strength available to us. I’d like to make clear that I am not a master at accessing this; it is there for me, but mostly I have relied on the grace of divine kindness, and on serendipity, in opening its flow into my heart. I haven’t got a system; I don’t know what to do except ask and hope and trust. But I do know it is there — and not just passively there but actively reaching out a helping hand to us.

I think of it, or maybe one should say ‘visualise it’ in a few different ways, and if I explain them all then it may help you to get a handle on what I mean.

Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come in Earth as it is in Heaven.” 

In the more modern forms of the Lord’s Prayer, we say “on Earth”, but I prefer “in Earth”, because it balances with “in Heaven” — it’s about two realms — which is helpful in this context. 

Think of it like a tree — a big oak or a cedar of Lebanon or a yew tree; something with strong spreading boughs and a correspondingly strong spreading root system. The roots are in Earth and the boughs are in Heaven. In between there isn’t a big space with nothing but fresh air — the roots and branches aren’t separate. The tree trunk connects them (obviously). It is a highway between the roots and the branches, a conduit of nourishment. The Earth nourishes the branches in Heaven, and the dew of Heaven nourishes the whole tree all the way down to its roots in Earth.

We are in Earth, you and I. We are root people. Earth is our home and it is hard for us to imagine any other. But we are part of the whole tree, and the Heavenly aspect is joined on to us, connected to us; we are part of it. We send nourishment up to it from the realm where we are at home, and it nourishes us and keeps us well from its airy, dewy, Heavenly dimension. Here in Earth, we root people for the most part can’t see the boughs and the leaves or even the trunk; we just experience its influence, it is there for us.

I know that is true. Now I want to lay before you something I don’t know is true, but I think is true — I sense is true. I might be wrong; you’ll have to see if it resonates for you.

I believe each one of us here in Earth has a spiritual kindred, belongs to a tribe or clan or family of souls. At any given time, some of us are in Earth and some of us are in Heaven; and we support and help one another. The integrity and courage and compassion that can only be exercised in the Earthly realm with its challenges that belong specifically to physical being (poverty; vulnerability to aggression and accident; the frailty of infancy and old age; disability and sickness; limitation), these increase the wisdom body of our whole family of souls, fitting the ones in the Heavenly realm for the demands of their Earth journey. There is nowhere else to learn this wisdom but Earth; they are relying on us to deepen our skills and mastery.

But equally, they are able to nourish and support us from the Heavenly end of things, seeing our need, coming to our aid, adding in the freedom and joy and light, the better vista and wider perspective that belong to the Heavenly realm. There is a massive great trunk connecting us all the time and allowing constant linking in and interaction. 

I believe the children who are born into Earth through our bodies choose to come through us because of what we can teach them — and sometimes those are hard lessons, because our children do suffer at our hands, through our ignorance and immaturity of soul. Sometimes the fully awake ones may be born down into our unconsciousness to give us a chance to wake up and come alive. Our children are not our property, they are our co-workers, and also our teachers; they are on the team. They come down from the light world into the root world with a tremendous burst of buddha-nature to advance our development and insight.

As well as the image of a tree, I find a placenta to be a useful image. We are not alone in our lives. We are fed and surrounded by our Mother. Spiritual Being is our Mother, carrying us, nourishing us, providing the environment for us to grow. What we are is drawn down from, created from, what she is; and yet, you are yourself and I am myself and your Mother is herself and my Mother is herself.  The nature of Spirit that forms and carries us is particular and specific. We are not left to our own devices, cast adrift; we are not test tube babies. We are enfolded in the womb of life, and our experience is unique, because our Mother and our Self is unique. But there is interconnection.

My friend Pearl, who died a year ago last Christmas, used to speak all the time about what she called “the people upstairs”. And I find that another very helpful visualisation of what I’m describing. We here in Earth, the root people, are downstairs in the house of life; but we’re not living in a bungalow. There’s an upstairs too, and a huge, sweeping, glorious staircase connects us. We are aware of the people upstairs, if we pay attention we dimly hear them moving and speaking. And when the time is right in birth and death, one of us will come downstairs to join the root people or go upstairs to join the light people. 

In the Bible, the letter to the Hebrews speaks about this phenomenon as “the cloud of witnesses”. It’s in chapters 11 and 12, and I recommend you to read the whole of it, but here are snippets (from the RSV):

Chapter 11, v.1:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Chapter 11, v.3:
By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”

Chapter 11, v.13-15, which touches upon our interconnection, and how the Heavenly realm is our place of origin and primary home, and our time in Earth as root people is a sojourn:
“These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”

Chapter 11, v. 39-40, which touches upon how our family members upstairs in the realm of light depend on us who live in darkness to nourish and strengthen them, as well as them sustaining and helping us:
“And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

Chapter 12, v.1-2, which reminds us to make use of our umbilical cord, our staircase, the trunk of our tree, to strengthen us in our task as root people:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And in Chapter 12, vs 12-14, expressing how this unifying structure conjoining Earth and Heaven is for the manifestation of God’s Shalom:
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

In modern times, the development of electronics and the internet also give us the perfect visualisation of what I’m describing, in the i-Cloud. Our computers and phones can connect to the i-Cloud, for back-up and storage. It’s there for files that are too big for our devices to handle. It’s there to keep things safe that we might need later. It’s there as a tool for connection and communication, for enabling and empowering. If you want to use it, you have to go into your device’s settings and enable it.

Now, you are not a computer and nor am I. You are not a machine or a device or a tool to be used. You are a living being who proceeds from the mind of God, and you are rooted in Earth as part of the life of the universe, the cosmos. You (as Max Ehrmann put it, in Desiderata) are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. Not a computer.

However, that said, there are similarities brilliantly helpful for us in thinking about the i-Cloud; except it isn’t a thing, it’s alive. It initiates.

We can draw upon its strength in facing the challenges of our lives, and send our wisdom and reality up to it. It is a store of hope, and a place to put stuff that’s too big for us to handle, stuff that would overwhelm us and crash our personal system. We can send it up there, and download what we need as we need it.

And the correlation, the stairway, the tree-trunk, the umbilical cord between Earth and Heaven is invisible, just as the connection between your phone and the i-Cloud is invisible but is there nonetheless.

There’s something else here we should pay attention to. Viruses, parasites, diseases and all kinds of opportunistic pests. They can invade and destroy. 

A friend of mine who grew up in the South African bush has a memory of when the ants came, a massive invasion, that would have eaten the wooden house they lived in, destroyed their dwelling. His mother lit a ring of fire all around the house, and kept it burning until the ants had gone on their way.

In our bodies there are ways to build and strengthen our immune system that defends us against the viruses and bacteria and fungi that take us down if we don’t manage our Earth house correctly.

In the same way, the invisible realm has its viruses and parasites, its bacteria and fungi, against which we need to be defended.

They are not bad — evil. Nothing is. They have their place, but it is not inside us. For this reason, I do not recommend you try to enable your spiritual i-Cloud through ouija boards or channelling or spiritualism. Don’t reach out into the unknown asking, “Hello? Are you there?” Don’t just download anything in the hopes it’ll all be okay.

Our strength and protection is in Jesus. Our safety is in his Name. In his death on the cross, he opened for us the new and living way.  By his body, his life stretched out upon it, he made the cross into our Heaven tree, the bridge between Heaven and Earth, the staircase between upstairs and downstairs, the safe and virus-protected access to the i-Cloud, the realm of light.

Go through his Name. As the Bible says in Proverbs 18.10: “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe”. 

Go via the Name of the Lord.

If you remember, the Name of the Lord in the Bible is “I am that I am”. It’s not a label, a moniker like Simon or Elizabeth. You cannot put a handle on God, The divine nature is both too magnificent and too subtle to label. Because God is not created, you cannot name the divine mystery. The Name of God is God’s own self. And Jesus, who was the Monad, the Cosmic Christ, the Only Son of God, also bore the Name of God, the I Am. 

He said: I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we travel through him, we are safe-guarded, we journey safely in the new and living way. He provides our anti-virus protection. If you go through him, you will be safe.

So how do we enable it, our spiritual i-Cloud drive?

I’m not sure of all the ways, and I haven’t met anyone whose teaching on this I absolutely trust, but this is what I think.

We ASK. We turn on the connection by just asking. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” says Jesus in Revelation 3.20. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them and they with me.”

We are what we eat. Our food is the building material of our being. When we sit down together with Jesus and share our food, we become one with Jesus. We manifest communion.

Jesus not only opened the new and living way, he is it. This is what the Bible means when it says (Colossians 1.19-20 RSV) “For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

He is the vine, and we branch out from him in roots and shoots, and our life is secured by routing through him.

So, we ASK. We invite him in.

The second thing we do is PRACTICE.
Habit establishes and strengthens. If we make a habit of listening and noticing, of seeing the signs and asking for guidance, if we develop habits if solitude, silence and simplicity so the subtle air of heaven is not polluted by accumulation, acquisition, over-commitment and noise, we remain open to receive and to offer up


The third thing we do is BELIEVE. 
If someone has an i-phone and you tell then they can enable access to the i-Cloud in Settings and they won’t do it — they don’t believe you and they think you’re talking rubbish, well, that’s how things stay. Seeing is not believing — believing is seeing. Enable it and start to use it, and then you’ll see.

And lastly a caveat. Don’t run away with the idea that, when you’ve enabled your connection and you’ve asked, and you’re practicing and believing, everything will now be hunky dory and go swimmingly in your life for evermore. That’s not the point of it.  Remember that it’s here in Earth that we learn courage, faith, patience and compassion and integrity. How do we learn these things? Through adversity. The Cloud of Witnesses, the People Upstairs, the branches of the Heaven Tree, our spiritual i-Cloud drive — these are not there to remove adversity from our life, but to strengthen us as we pass through it.

As Psalm 84 says, “How blessed are those who, going through the Valley of Baca (bitterness, adversity), find it to be a place of springs.” The People Upstairs have a bird’s eye view; they can see where the springs are.

As Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 says: “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The force is strong in a Jedi knight, not to help him sit on the couch eating pizza and watching re-runs of soaps, but for developing mastery as a warrior of the resistance. And yes, the Empire strikes back. The slime mould of Mammon is a problem. But resist; the Force will be with you.

Find the kindred. They are here, both in Earth and in Heaven, and the new and living way between those realms is open and found in Jesus.

Look for the kindred of the quiet way. They will be hidden, and their lives may be small, but they are with you.

I hope this is helpful for your daily practice.


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part Ten

Phew! Electronic glitchcraft defeated. For now . . .

Here's the next instalment of our story.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part Nine

Next part of story.

Apologies — I recorded this on my phone for better sound quality, then my phone storage filled up and the video cut out a few seconds before the end. Sigh.

In a few weeks I can re-enable my i-Cloud storage and be able to do longer videos, but it got filled up and I had to disable it or go on to a paid tariff. So I'm waiting . . . Electronics, eh? The blessing and bane of our day! 

Bless you anyway, and for the end of the truncated prayer — Amen! x

Monday, 22 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day —Part Eight

Part eight of our story.

I'm not totally happy with the sound quality I'm getting, recording on my laptop. I changed over to that because I encountered some difficulties recording on my phone (which has better sound quality).

If it helps you to have the text, there's still an e-book version of this story for sale, or a few second-hand paper copies. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Friday, 19 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part 5

Part 5 of our story.

I have never been sure how to pronounce the word "chimera". I've looked it up now, but not until after I read this instalment, in which I have mispronounced it (sorry). I've only ever seen it written down, you see. 

I said it like kim-err-a. Wikipedia says this:

"the 'ch' is a 'k' sound, the 'i' is a long 'i' as in 'bike', and the 'a' at the end is a short sound like the 'a' in 'stella' or 'bella'. the 2nd syllable is stressed. so it's 'ky-mee-ra'."

Apologies. x

Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part Four

The next part of our story. These instalments are quite long — settle down with a cup of tea?

Monday, 15 June 2020

The Clear Light of Day — Part One

The Clear Light of Day is published by David C Cook, and you can find it here on Kindle if you want to read it for yourself all in one go.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Some thoughts about the death of George Floyd

I was not going to post about this. I am a woman, I am English, and I am white; it seemed not my prerogative to address this highly charged event that has rightly triggered such an outpouring of outrage and grief.

But then yesterday on Facebook I was drawn into a conversation that changed my mind. I had not realised how much misinformation there was on this topic. Although I don't know everything and I get a lot wrong, I know a little more than the person with whom I was conversing. 

Here are some of the key issues, that emerged in the exchange, I thought it might be important to clarify. Someone made the following assertions:
  1. George Floyd was an armed robber and drugs dealer.
  2. The poor shop-keeper was being robbed.
  3. The policeman was heavy-handed but by no means was it his intention to kill this violent criminal. 
To address them in order.

Reading around about George Floyd's life, I saw that he did have a history of taking drugs (I don't know if he sold them), that he had a number of burglary convictions and one for armed robbery. 

There are several considerations here. Firstly, given the track record of American justice and policing in respect of the Black community, one should perhaps retain some caution before automatically accepting as justified any allegation or conviction of a Black man. Institutional racism is at such a level (in the UK as well as in the US, as my social media conversant's assumptions make clear) that one can no longer trust the courts or the police in these matters.

Then, even if he had a history of convictions and drug involvements, that had no direct bearing on the occasion when he was arrested.

And whatever his demeanour or his criminal history, the police still have a duty to treat every person with respect and not hurt them. To restrain a violent person is clearly necessary at times, but not in such a way as to injure them. And George Floyd was not behaving violently, not resisting arrest, and was handcuffed and prone on the ground, incapable of struggle, when Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.

In general, many voices have been raised calling George Floyd a gentle giant, and speaking with admiration and respect of his life and conduct; I'm not overlooking that, just responding to what was said to me on social media. But it is worth noting that the person with whom I was talking — a white, middle-aged man — did overlook absolutely everything good about George Floyd, focusing only on Floyd's criminal record as well as including some fabricated elements.

Moving on, then to the second point — "the poor shopkeeper was being robbed". No, he was not. 

George Floyd paid for his purchases in the usual manner, and walked away. The (inexperienced, teenage) cashier in the store mistook the money given as a counterfeit note, and followed the recommended procedure of the store in such circumstances — calling the police. Later, both the proprietor (who had not been present) and the cashier expressed sadness and regret about the events that unfolded as a result. To be clear: whatever he had done in the past, George Floyd was not behaving aggressively or violently, was not robbing anybody, paid for his purchases with legal tender, and did not attempt to do anything dishonest or criminal. The cashier made a mistake.

The third point made by the man I encountered on social media was that "the policeman was heavy-handed, but by no means was it his intention to kill this violent criminal".

There are two things wrong with that. Firstly, to include "this violent criminal" imports crimes from Floyd's past into the present situation as if he were being violent and engaged in criminal action in this most recent encounter — which was not the case. There was no need to be heavy-handed with a person who has made some purchases at a store, paid for them with legal tender, and is now walking away; regardless of what he may have done in the past (if that was even known to the police officer).

Secondly, the assertion that Derek Chauvin did not intend to kill George Floyd is not supported by the evidence. It should not escape our attention that while the man I met on social media was anxious to import Floyd's past into his present as a condemnatory factor, he did not do the same with Derek Chauvin, who had 18 complaints against him on his police record. 

I have not watched the video of George Floyd's death, though I believe it is very important that it was made and is in the public domain. Of course it is essential viewing in establishing justice, but I have an instinct that for me — an elderly woman living in England — to watch it would be as intrusively disrespectful as it would be distressing. But I have listened carefully to those who have seen it, I have seen the main photograph taken from it, and I have read the transcript of George Floyd's words.

What George Floyd said, especially given the circumstances, would have alerted anybody to his extreme physical distress and trauma. When he went silent and limp, it was beyond doubt that what Chauvin was doing had to stop. The intention to injure him is very evident, and to continue after Floyd went silent and limp strongly suggests an intention to kill him.

But there's more than that. Someone else on social media pointed out something I would have overlooked left to myself, about the image of Chauvin and Floyd.

This second person said that the images show Chauvin's left knee on Floyd's neck and Chauvin's left foot pressing against the ground, while his right foot is looser — indicating that Chauvin is applying the pressure of all his body weight to Floyd's neck. Further, that his left hand is in his pocket to apply the pressure of that hand to his thigh, and that the veins standing out on his left arm indicate that Chauvin is applying all the combined pressure he can muster to the neck of this prone and handcuffed man.

I pointed out these things to the middle-aged white man on Facebook. One might have thought he would see the situation differently, realising that he had been misinformed. But he was not interested.

Here's what he said:

"I've stuck by everything I said from the start. You lot are the twisters."  ["You lot" being me and my daughter]

"Please get a life."

"Whoops. Hit a nerve, have I?"

"Internet bullies, please go away! I get so sick of your pointless banter and complaining."

His initial objection had been that the Black Lives Matter protests arising just at this time were inconsiderate and a public health danger because of the pandemic. At some point in the exchange, he posted a photograph of a hooded Ku Klux Klan member, saying that this would be the mask he wore if he attended one of the protests. 

"Black lives matter?" he said: "All lives matter. Demonstrations when there is a virus going round is ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the people who go."

When my daughter objected to his posting the image on her Facebook page, he responded, "It's a joke! Christ, I don't believe you lot!"
Later, he deleted the post.

On reflection, I thought this showed with such absolute clarity how fierce and shameful and taken for granted is racism in UK society — this man on social media is just an ordinary bloke who expected to find easy acceptance of his views — and how easily misinformation and misconceptions have been passed on about the murder of George Floyd, that I would post about it here.

As for George Floyd himself — though his cruel and needless killing has been the spark that has finally set aflame the relentless persecution over centuries of black people by white people, even if social change comes about as a result (and I hope it does), still he is gone for ever. As a result of an act of violence and injustice, an absolute and disgraceful abuse of power, he will never again walk upon the earth; his life is lost. I think that is entirely heartbreaking. I am so very, very sorry.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Memory eternal. And may change come.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Ministry of the Word from The Campfire Church today

Buzzfloyd mentions an icon that she showed us at The Campfire Church.

It was this one, "The Trinity" by Kelly Latimore. The image is linked to Kelly's site, where you can read more about her work and purchase a print of her icon.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

The Campfire Church

Buzzfloyd, who comments here sometimes, hosts The Campfire Church on Facebook with me. Here we are.

I don't know where that little chapel is — the one in the picture at the top — it's just a photo I saw on the internet. And that's what The Campfire Church is — a temporary gathering on the internet, round an imaginary campfire, for worship and fellowship during the Covid19 isolation when physical church doesn't meet.

Buzzfloyd and I both Local Preachers and we have church membership at Pett Methodist Chapel, a little country chapel in a Sussex village. We started putting together online worship as soon as the lockdown started. We initially began meeting on the Pett Methodist Chapel Facebook page, but moved to our own page when our worship began to develop its own community identity no longer confined within the Pett Chapel membership. This last week, a couple of months into the lockdown, our minister wrote to me to ask if I could write a report for our Circuit meeting explaining about The Campfire Church, what we are and what we're doing. I thought you might be interested too (you can come to The Campfire Church if you like — tomorrow is Trinity Sunday, and Buzzfloyd will be leading our worship) so here is what I wrote in my report (Grace is Buzzfloyd):

 The Campfire Church on Facebook

As soon as we went into lockdown, realising that people could be feeling lost, isolated and in need of support, it seemed important to replicate as closely as possible the experience of church they were used to — something that felt comforting familiar.

Here are the characteristics I wanted to include:
  • A church is part of a neighbourhood.
  • Pastoral support, fellowship and friendship, beyond the Sunday service, are of immense importance.  
  • Good liturgy is participatory, not just a spectator sport.
  • In church, people sit with their friends — they don’t just sit as isolated individuals listening, singing, and saying “Amen”. They exchange remarks with those sitting next to them and chat to their friends.
  • Shy people like to be able to just observe for a while before plunging in.
  • Coffee and a chat at the end is important.

There may be a number of ways to replicate these characteristics in an online setting, but I thought Facebook would particularly lend itself to meeting these objectives.

On Facebook, a person “posts” something — some thoughts, or a picture or a link to an article or video, and below the post is a comments section where those who have seen it can add their views. We built on this simple system in structuring our worship.

In our services, we move through by a series of numbered posts, each having a comments section allowing participation by anyone who is there. 

So, for example, when we come to a hymn, the post will be a link to a video  on Youtube — and that may be Grace playing the piano and singing, or an a cappella group, or a Welsh choir or a Big Sing at the Albert Hall. We make sure the words are always provided, because it is important that those participating can sing along in their own homes. And they do. Those who worship with us who have little children at home sometimes remark how much the children are enjoying singing along.

Our opening prayer, and our Lords Prayer, are given in text format  and in the comments section people can just type “Amen”, or they can type in any phrase that speaks particularly to their heart that day.

The posts all include either a picture or a video, to make sure the worship is a sensory experience, not just cerebral.

The reading, and the sermon, are given as pre-recorded videos (with full text also supplied).

Our intercessions are usually a time of open prayer, so people can bring into the worship whatever concerns are on their hearts.

As it is possible for others to rely to any comment made, it is in effect possible for the “people in the pews” to speak to one another as well as to respond to the leader — just like in normal church. So they can exchange comments, or use the emoticons provided to exchange a smile, or a hug, or send love or express sorrow.

The Sunday before Pentecost we had a eucharistic-type liturgy, in which those attending were invited to take photos of the liturgical table they were putting together in their own living rooms, posting these pictures into the comments section as we went along, so we could all share in this creative expression of building an altar at home.

And then of course, there is the neighbourhood dimension. Because Facebook is essentially a large village/town — a community — where you can make friends, it is possible for the Campfire Church leaders to become Facebook Friends with the members; and this allows interaction, affirmation, support and exchange through the week. It enables a pastoral framework to establish.

The Campfire Church grew out of taking Pett Chapel online. As not all Pett members wished to be on Facebook, and as one or two did not enjoy our worship format, preferring Zoom services or watching live broadcasts, I took the decision to create The Campfire Church a Facebook page of its own, so that Pett folk could continue to attend it if they wished, while at the same time being free to pursue a variety of options to find what suited them best.

The Campfire Church now has 70 members, and on Sunday mornings we usually have about 25 logged on. Our membership is international and interdenominational, but also includes a number of people from the Hastings Bexhill and Rye Methodist Circuit. We are pleased that our attendance is stable (the same people come back week after week) but also growing (new people gradually come along, and they usually stay with us). We worship at 10 am on Sundays, when some of our members want to attend live broadcasts of the churches to which they belong — and those individuals often come along to the Campfire Church later in the day, and go through the service (which we leave up for them to find) quietly in their own time.

Those in membership are finding this expression of church supportive and nurturing. We aim to offer teaching of a high standard, with good levels of spiritual and intellectual stimulus, a strong sense of fellowship and pastoral care, and also to make church fun.

Our church has 4 admins — Pen Wilcock, Grace Garner, Tony Collins and Gail Tea (Gail is a Roman Catholic in Plymouth). So far our readers on a Sunday morning have been Grace, Tony and Gail; our preachers have been Pen and Grace, and our liturgies have been structured and delivered by Pen and Grace.

You are most welcome to come along and see what we do. If you go to Facebook and search for The Campfire Church, you can easily find us. It is a private group (to protect personal disclosures made in our open intercessions), so you will have to request membership.

 Maybe see you one Sunday morning? xx