May 2020: GODISNOWHERE Grace Open Mic
The second main Grace service to be conducted over Zoom during lockdown. (We had also revived the Gracelet liturgy for a mid-week evening Zoom service.)
Intro/welcome Jonny Baker
Silence - Kate Fox Robinson
Poem Different kinds of quiet, followed by 'Calm me O Lord' from the first Grace album.
Lighthouse - Jenny Baker and Grace Rae
Grace spoke about South Foreland lighthouse, where she works.
Who or what is guiding you through the storm at the moment?
Linocut of a lighthouse by Jenny Baker
followed by song 'Lighthouse' by Patrick Watson
Psalm 22 - Peter Tate
Psalm 22, quoted by Jesus on the cross, begins in anguish and despair. But Peter noted how in the last third of the psalm the writer turns to praise and hope in God - it seems like a change of attitude, a deliberate choice ahead of any concrete change in the situation.
Peter spoke about his elderly uncle in a care home, who had Covid-19 and was not expected to live, but has now recovered. Even when it seems as though all is lost, the future is not yet written, and we have the choice to despair or turn to hope like the psalmist.
Godisnowhere - Kurt Wilson
Some one is not some thing because of oneness.
Some thing is not some one because of thingness.
Some where isn’t here or there or nowhere or everywhere.
Where doesn’t work like that.
Where are the things that have no thingness?
Is love here but not there?
Is trust now but not then?
God is now, and also then.
God is here, and also there.
God is nothing and nowhere in the full meanings of the words.
All-encompassing - Steve Page
Steve read his poem All-encompassing
I know it’s all-encompassing, but you know something?
it’ll pass, and we’ll move on
and we’ll try to forget the moments when we thought we could all be goners.
We’ll look forward, quote verses about new things and we’ll be assertive
and we’ll trust God for the future, post memes on our computers
and it is right that we do this with honest good humour
but let’s not waste this season by simply surviving,
simply grinning and bearing, and us hiding our crying.
Let’s not miss these moments, these weeks and months
when it's more honest to pray with tears and sobs,
asking for answers to our cries for life,
for the lives around us,
- for those who have died,
for our sanity cooped up and us barely coping,
our routine getting worn with daily repeating
without much needed hugs and with limited ways
to meet and to sing and to share our long days
with more than these same four walls
– don’t forget how this felt for you,
cos that's the way we seek his truth
and be better able to rely on him
next time our lives lose their rhyme and rhythm,
when (let’s be honest) our faith gets wonky,
and each one of us alone can be tempted to worry
and sink inside.
Let’s be honest with him and next time
our vision may be better aligned
and we’ll look to him and rather than hide,
we’ll stand that much straighter, knowing our God is so much greater,
our God is wider and higher and untold deeper
and he has this frail life in his two pierced hands that are so much bigger.
I know it's all-encompassing,
but you know something,
he is all Father,
all Creator, all Redeemer
and the all-encompassing more Grace-giver
He is the one holding it all together
and he wants to walk through this grief together
So, turn down the news,
make some space, seek his face
and let’s pray.
Isaiah 61 - Rebecca Warren
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;
because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted,
to preach deliverance to the captives,
and recovering of sight to the blind;
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord".
Isaiah 61 vv 1-2, adapted from KJV
"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour".
Isaiah 61 vv 1-2, NRSV
I am anticipating Pentecost, at the end of this month. You can't get more "God is now here" than that.
The opening section of Isaiah 61 is one of my favourite passages in the Bible – and it must have been one of Jesus's favourite passages as well, because, according to Luke, he quoted it at the beginning of his ministry. It is also the first verse of one of my favourite songs, from the Apostles by Elgar (if you know how much I sing, you will know that it is a big deal for me to designate a song as a favourite!) There are two versions of the words here – the first one is used in the song, and I have also included a modern translation for anyone who prefers that.
The invocations in this passage are relevant at any time. They are particularly relevant at this time of coronavirus. In case anybody doesn't know, the "acceptable year of the Lord" is the year of debt cancellation.
I am now going to sing the song – while I sing it, think about how these callings are relevant today. You can then give some feedback, or put it in the chat.
Full lyrics here.
Godisnowhere - Idina Dunmore
Idina spoke about the images of panic and despair that we saw in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis - the supermarket shelves stripped bare, people struggling to find food and daily necessities - God is nowhere? But since then, for her these images have been replaced by images of hope, expressed in a practical way through the volunteer-organised food distribution services in Southall. God is now here.
Kindness by Brian Bilston
Knitting in lockdown - Sue Donnelly
Attention - Mike Rose
What makes attention effortless and not always something to pay? To misquote Herb Simon ‘attention is what becomes scarce when information become plentiful.’
The current situation has been an unusual blend. It has allowed time for a reset, yet amongst a context of increased reliance on perpetual messaging, non-stop entertainment and technology.
When this is over I hope to rediscover habits of attention to other people and situations and to enjoy them as an effortless practice, not as another demand of the kinds of attention one is too often asked to pay.
Were you were always there and I just didn’t notice you?
Were you kept away by the noise and the lights and the dirty air?
Or was it that I just wasn’t looking?
Janus - Harry Rae
The concept of GODISNOWHERE struck me because the same letters could be interpreted as meaning two seemingly opposite things - I looked into it and there is a term for words that do this, they are known as Auto-antonyms or Contranyms. Examples include ‘to cleave’ (which can mean to cut apart or stick together) or ‘to screen’ (which depending on context can mean to show or to hide something) or more recently ‘literally’ literally meaning ‘not literally’ (!).
Another term for these words is Janus words, named after the Roman god of gateways, beginnings and endings, as Janus is often depicted as having two faces, one looking to the future and one looking to the past. During this in-between time I find I am constantly looking between the future and the past, as a way of dealing with the present, so wanted to try and construct a pray/poem/meditation out of other ‘Janus words’.
A Prayer To A Two-Faced God
May you be with us presently and presently.
May you enable us to bolt to you and bolt to you.
May you hold us up when others hold us up.
May you overlook the things we overlook.
May you stand fast for us when the world moves too fast for us.
May you be tough for us when things becomes too tough.
May you help us buckle up before we buckle.
May you be left with us when everyone has left.
As we refrain from day to day we pray you’ll stay as our refrain.
May we be ready to strike whether we strike or not.
When we are thrown in at the deep end may we still depend on you.
When times are rocky may you be our rock.
When the systems fixed may we have the courage to fix the system.
May you free us from what binds us so we may be bound for more.
May we wear our best selves out before we wear our best selves out.
Whether or not it weathers us, may you help us weather this storm.
As we look forward to when we look back on this as two-faced gods,
May you wind us up to go before we go and wind up gone.
Moya held up a small pizza to the camera - burnt solid! She doesn't think there will be burnt pizzas in the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, she showed us images of care and inspiration from the school at which she works.
Godisnowhere Liturgy - Jonny Baker
This season of the year the church reads the resurrection appearance stories. I have been struck looking at them how grief and hope are often close together. And how often God’s absence and presence are experienced in the same stories - the Emmaus Rd is a classic example...
Perhaps this has something to say to us in our own experience at the moment - I suspect many of us experience grief and many of us remember hope and we probably flit between the two. Many of us have felt God is far away and many of us have been reassured of God’s presence.
The women arrive at the empty tomb - God is nowhere
Suddenly Jesus meets them - God is now here
Mary weeping with loss in the garden - God is nowhere
The gardener speaks her name - God is now here
The disciples afraid in a locked room - God is nowhere
Then Jesus appears - God is now here
Thomas refusing to believe - God is nowhere
He touches Jesus wounds - God is now here
The disciples fish all night without a catch - God is nowhere
"Throw your net over the right side" - God is now here
Peter shattered when the cock crows - God is nowhere
A healing conversation on the beach - God is now here
Two disciples downcast on the Emmaus Rd - God is nowhere
They recognised him in the breaking of bread - God is now here
Peace - Gill Willcox
Gill asked us all to share the peace by whatever gesture we wanted, up then down, left then right, to the people 'around' us on the Zoom video windows!
Cafe - breakout rooms
Those who stayed after the service were then put into chatrooms of three or four people each, which ran for another hour or so.