Looking forward to a few things…

This photo was taken looking out from the viewpoint at the top of Benmore Gardens today, where we took a picnic today, along with some friends. It somehow made me think of the year to come; looking forward into 2012. It suddenly seemed so hopeful and exciting to look forward, rather than looking back…

I love to have things on the horizon – distant goals/projects/destinations that I can move towards, even if getting there involves some graft. I think this is always even more important to me in the dark months of the year. So I started to write a list.

Yesterday we worked hard in our cellar, to continue the process of converting the space down there to a working pottery. Michaela and Pauline’s Blue Sky Craft Workshops will be planning some sessions down there. Watch this space if you are interested. I’ll post some photos when I have managed to build some of the workbenches down there.

Talking of craft/art we have  been asked if we want to use the exhibition space in Benmore Gardens- to fill it up with carvings and craftings. This is a lovely challenge, as it is a big space, and so it will need some big pieces, possibly combining work from different members of our group. Time to get in the workshop, and tidy all the things that have come out of the cellar into some kind of order!

Then there is the distant Greenbelt festival- which has become increasingly important to me also. I have a few ideas for poetry/audio installations that I am gathering soundscapes and ideas for. Not sure if it will happen, but the creativity it sparks in me is grand.

In all this mix is lots of uncertainty. A job that has been under threat for two years but may be about to finally end. Other plans to downshift and start all sorts of other micro enterprises have been long in the planning, but this will be the year one way or another, when things will change.

Then there is the Wilderness Retreats that I am planning with my mates Simon, Nick and Paul. I am really looking forward to these. I hope some of you will join us.

Then there are all the activities of the community I am part of – Aoradh. We meet to eat and laugh and pray, and to plan creative ways to celebrate our faith. Next year we are already talking about collaborations with others, bench meditation spots, community gardens, labyrinths, prayer rooms.

And to mark progress towards the new season, today Will and I attended the first of the years indoor cricket net sessions. We spent a couple of hours bowling, being bowled at and facing a bowling machine. Magic. It is hard to imagine the warm days full of the sound of leather on willow, but this too will come.

As I look at this little (incomplete) list, I feel blessed, excited, hopeful, humble, grateful. And perhaps just a little overwhelmed.

May your horizons be full of good things too!


Part of our worship event @ Greenbelt festival-


There was a concern in the land

In every town the roads were lined with beggars

There were homeless orphans and widows cast out onto the streets

The lunatics were stoned by children

And melancholics drowned their sorrows with gin

The mess of it all was in the middle of us

The Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping

He had no home amongst us


So the good people gathered

“What is needed” they said “Is asylum.”

A safe home where broken people can live out their lives in care-

Protected from all of the mess of life

Fed and warm and watered.

So money was gathered

Stones were shaped and raised

Staff were retained and clothed in crisp starched clothing

And the heavy doors were opened wide in welcome


And so they came- the halt, the sick, the lame

The motherless and the pregnant child

All those broken by worry and grief

The shakers and the mutterers

All the awkward squad

The outsiders now came inside

They were home at last


It went well for a while

All was orderly and planned

Starved frames filled out

Songs were sung again in the entertainment hall

Gardens were laid and tended

Sheets danced in the evening sunlight

And a bell rang out to warn of the dowsing of night candles


But time passed, and shadows fell

Budgets were tight, and the paint peeled on windows

The good folk who had once been so generous had other calls on their coin

A few still visited on feast days but for the most part

Out of sight became out of mind.


And there was trouble

The awkward squad was still awkward

The asylum split into‘us’ and ‘them’


‘We’ had roles- uniforms and clipboards, rotas and registers

Big bunches of keys danced at our belts

We had dreams- of advancement, romance and families

We had homes away from this home


‘They’ stood the other side of our desks

Dirty and lacking in motivation

Ungrateful and manipulative

Un co-operative with our assessments

Lacking insight into the nature of their dysfunction.

They had ceased to be like us

Rather, they lived out regulated half-lives

They ceased to be flesh

And became instead a collection of paper

In manila folders


Despite all the material provision- something was missing

Despite all the person centred plans, the person was not at the centre

Despite the close press of humanity, there was no family

Despite all the risk assessments, there was no adventure

Despite all the planned activity, there is no purpose

Despite the safety of the high walls, I am still destroyed


So it was that care became captivity

Individuals became invisible

And home became hollow

And toxic

And Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping





The father who walks with the Son and the Spirit…

I have taken a day off work today- the sun is shining, and I need a day at home after a really busy couple of weeks.

Greenbelt festival is looming!

Aoradh are going to be doing a few worship things again- participating in a day long worship event along with Sanctus 1 and Safespace. I just checked the GB website and see we are not mentioned as participants! How rude.

As part of the worship, we are providing a great big loom, into which people will be encouraged to weave in the names of their community- here is the loom frame in front of our house-

We are also doing a couple of liturgies- one around communion, with a really lovely piece that Audrey wrote, and another based on the Community of God- the Trinity, with our bit focussing on the Father.

If you are at Greenbelt this year, it would be great to see you- we will be in the New Forms cafe for most of the day on Saturday…

I pulled out an old piece of writing I did thinking about fatherhood, and have been doing some work on it. Here are a couple of sections I am playing with-

We were made for relationship.


All of us- with no exceptions

Every one of God’s children


From the star pupil,

To the remedial

Poorly clothed


Back-of-the-classroom loser


Who becomes the favourite

The Chosen One

The last-

Now made first



Of the most high God



Abba is not a word of examination

It demands no achievements

And sets no unreachable goals


Abba is not a word of judgement

It has no laws to uphold

And carries no truncheons


Abba is not a word of profit

It knows no sensible spending limits

And demands no collateral


Abba is not an ineffectual word

It answers to no committees

And has no obligations


Abba is not a word of power

It has no foot soldiers

And demands no blind obedience


Abba is not an absent word

It has no shoddy rented spaces

And evicts no tenants


Abba is an open word

Open doored

Open armed

And open hearted


It is a word that invites us home.

Solas festival…

It is not too late to get tickets to SOLAS.

Solas is a Scottish faith and arts based festival which will be taking place over the 25th-27th of June, at Whiston, near Biggar. If you can support this festival- please do, as it is something that could be really important for the future landscape of faith in this country.

This is the first of what is hoped to be a a series of such festivals- and owes its origin to Greenbelt Festival in England. Here is the full programme-

solas leaflet2 Emailer

Our garden harvest festival…


So the garden delivers up some more autumn harvest…

We spent an hour in the rough land next to our garden collecting blackberries- scaring out some of the deer that have shared our garden produce over the last few months.

Michaela lifted our garlic and the last spuds. The garlic smells wonderful- filling the whole garden and kitchen with it’s scent. Where you would use several cloves of supermarket wimpy stuff- you need one clove of the home grown variety!


And then there are the apples- for pies and chutney and crumbles.

It never fails to amaze me how much of what grows that we can eat. Check out this clip from Greenbelt (thanks to Earth Abbey.)

Greenbelt here we come…


Our preparations for Greenbelt festival are skipping over into the inevitable last minute panics.

We have to spray some fabric and Gazebos with fire retardant solution- which would be fine if we could get hold of some! We ordered it, but it did not arrive. We now wait to see if it will come tomorrow, and then hope we can get it sprayed and dried in time.

I am driving down with my friend Nick on Thursday, so we can pitch our tent in a good place and get started in setting up some poetry banners around the site. We set up a little competition- The first 10 people who collect the titles of all 10 poems and brings them to our worship event will get a free book.

We hope to get along to the Tautoko network pre-Greenbelt gathering in the Gloucester Cathedral on Thursday evening- along with a lot of other Greenbelt contributors, and the weird and wonderful worship of Agents of the Future.

Michaela, and 5 others will be joining us on Friday. It will be great to meet up with old friends who will be there- Simon McGoo and Mark and Dee from Wales…

Aoradh are responsible for a worship slot in the New Forms Cafe at 1.00 PM on Saturday- please come along!

We are also putting up 10 banners with poetry based on the Ecclesiastes 3 passage on seasons/time. Some of them are from my last book.

I am also doing some reading from this book, and an interview at the Proost Unususal Suspects event, also in New forms, 10PM, Friday. Proost have produced some really cool publicity cards for the book, so if anyone fancies spreading a few around, let me know!

I was also asked to be part of a panel on the use of new liturgy, something which I declined as I felt very under qualified, and we will miss most of Monday, as we will need to be on the road back up to Scotland.

So- looking forward to it- hope to see you there.

Greenbelt 08- a Goan review…

Brian McLaren makes do with a bullhorn after power failure...

Brian McLaren makes do with a bullhorn after power failure...

We are back.

Greenbelt 2008 was great- it was Michaela and the kids’ first time, and I think it was a bit of a culture shock for M at least. Will took it all in his stride, nintendo in pocket for the boring bits, and we only saw Emily every now and again- she had a ball.

M struggled with the crowds, the thousands of tents with guy ropes akimbo, and, of course, the questionable hygiene arrangements. But we all had highlights that we brought away as memories.

For Michaela, I think it was the communion service, visiting a spiritual director, and some of the talks.

For Emily, it was meeting new friends, a hard core screemy-teeny band called Fightstar and having the freedom to be herself in a large setting.

For William, who knows? Bless him, he is so easy with life. He seemed to really enjoy some of the ‘Children’s Greenbelt’ activities- particularly the chance to hold a snake, and to sing some songs. He badly needed some partners in crime- but seemed quite happy to hang out with the adults.

For me- a mixed bag really.

I loved Seth Lakeman’s set on Saturday evening- he made me proud- not sure what of exactly- perhaps that English-ness thing again.

I really enjoyed Brian McLaren, but more in agreement than revelation.

I also enjoyed hearing Philip Yancey- he is a really good speaker, and it was good to put a voice to the books. His combination with the Saltmine theatre company made me cry several times (in a good way!)

I somehow missed loads of stuff I wanted to see- partly because of family things that mean that time is shared in different ways, and partly because you just get overloaded at festivals like GB, and the effect this has on me is to make me wander aimlessly, sticking my head through tent doors and then moving on…

I missed out on a planned beer with Simon Smith because he was mad-busy doing some very impressive art stuff, and likewise Gail Findlay and Stephen Tunnicliffe, who were engaged on other Greenbelt business. I did manage to spend some time with old friends Mark and Denise from the Rhondda Valley, along with John, who is always great company. It was really good to see them again.

Along with fellow Dunoonite and Aoradh member Alistair (who had been volunteering the week before constructing various weird arty things) we performed a short version of 40 at the Proost lounge event on Saturday evening. Not sure how it went down, but it seemed to hold peoples attention, and feedback was good. Mark did us proud by reading the part of Jesus in a lovely rich Welsh accent (He asked if we wanted him to perform as Richard Burton or Uncle Bryn… I think he opted for the former in the end!)

The Proost lounge thing clashed with a discussion about whether there should be a Scottish Greenbelt (Scot belt? Tartan belt? Thistle Belt? You decide!) This was led by Doug Gay, and seems an interesting proposition. Huge amounts of work though- step forward the masochists!

Anyway- attached are a few more photies…


Well, for good or ill I have persuaded Michaela to come along to Greenbelt this year, along with the kids Emily and William (Emily was desperate to go so took no persuading at all!) This means taking the kids out of school as the school hols are different in Scotland to those in Englandshire.

This years speakers include Brian McLaren and Philip Yancey, and I am very much looking forward to hearing them both. Music looks less exciting, but there is always something that grabs you that you had not heard of (I really enjoyed ‘Over the Rhine‘ last year.)

Greenbelt gives me the feeling of connection with something bigger- something vital and creative, and fills me with hope for the people of Jesus in this country.

It is a chance to meet up with some old friends, particularly Mark and Dee from Wales. It will be good too meeting up with Si Smith, and perhaps getting to meet some of the Emerging Scotland folk…

It looks like we might be performing some of ’40’ also at a Proost lounge evening during the festival (see here for details of 40, or check out the ‘my writing’ bit of this blog- here.)

Hope to see you there!

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