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Praying with art


By Elizabeth Gray King

artYears ago I learned from the Schyler Institute of Worship and Arts that there are four active languages in worship – aural (what we hear), visual (what we see), kinaesthetic (how we move) and verbal (the words we use). I like to think of God’s languages this way and enjoy affirming that visual language is one way of God speaking to us. It makes sense when we think of messages we receive from someone’s facial expression or body movement, of learning we receive when we see particular objects or buildings, of emotions we feel when seeing particular colours. To pray with art is to pray with expectation that what we see will give us new insight, a new experience, and a deeper relationship with God.

The easy answer to how to pray with art is to experience it. But this is no easy answer for many. There are two ways I use and recommend for praying with art; one is to look at it thoughtfully, the other is to create it.

Seeing art as prayer

Approach any piece of art at any place. It could be in a gallery or exhibition space, but for prayer, it is more likely that the work of art will be in discreet place such as a designated prayer space in a church or retreat centre. You might be in group prayer where a work of art is projected onto a wall or screen. If you are praying alone, you could use a computer to access online art via an artist’s or collection’s website. You could collect artworks from books, posters or postcards.

Once you’ve found the art you want to settle with, start by looking carefully. No matter what the artist may suggest you see, you will see what you see. This is one of the wonderful things about art; it has almost endless meaning depending on who is looking. Breathe. Take time. Allow your eyes to move where they want to move and try not to make them see. Give yourself permission to roam slowly where your eyes seem to want to move. If there is a section which catches you often, rest with it. What does the colour, or lack of colour make you feel or think? What about the shapes caught your attention? Is there a strong light? Or dark? Focus a moment and consider: what of God can you see as you pay attention? Breathe. Let the revelation arrive and speak what it has to say.

Creating art as prayer

To pray whilst creating is to find a colour medium you like; pens, pencils, chalks, paint, crayons, software on a smartphone or tablet. Find a support for the colour; paper, fabric, canvas, cardboard, wood, glass, a smartphone or tablet. Before you become used to this kind of prayer, spend some time experiencing the colours and note, perhaps by creating a guide, which colours already mean something to you. What does red make you feel already? Blue? Is yellow a happy colour? Then start this quite open prayer. Breathe. Every time a word comes into your mind, replace it with colour and make any kind of shape with it. Watch the shapes grow and see what they may be showing you. Try not to do anything identifiable unless you absolutely need to for the prayer’s sake. Stop occasionally, looking well at what has arrived. Keep moving into your prayer with more colours and shapes until you think and feel that you are finished. Then see what you have created. What does this say to you from God?


Day 24.Coronavirus lock-down
I wrote this a long time ago. Then I discovered it fits perfectly to the tune of 'Now the Carnival is Over'.
Maybe, one day, when we can meet again, we could all sing it together in church....if you like it, that is.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Trusting Him hear His voice, for it is caring; Softly whispers from above,


Christmas Poem

Memories of Christmas, locked in my heart,
No longer a young ‘un’, where do I start?
My first visit from Santa, tucked up in bed,
Three years old I think, was it all in my head?
My Aunt, 8 years older than me,
Told me to be quiet and look in the sky,
For there in his sleigh, Santa I’d see,
And Santa was looking forward to his mince pie.
That morning, by magic, on the dressing table,
was the big china doll on my list.
And at three, I did not wonder how Santa was able
to enter our bedroom, and not be missed.
Fast forward to a number of years later,
And my sister and I excitedly followed the string
down the stairs, laid by Mater and Pater,
to our very own record player, that Santa did bring.
Our Grandparents home was the venue for special times,
A labyrinth of rooms, passages, numerous doors.
A banquet, Christmas crackers, jokes, rhymes,
Many footsteps, dancing, bouncing, jumping, on those old floors.
Family traditions, fun, games, laughter, follow me down the years.
All the older generation, and my little brother gone now. Left
alone with my memories, silent tears.
But the feeling of love continues, so not bereft.
Although trinkets, decorations are all long gone,
Sharing the meaning of Christmas with others,
The love felt and shared, lingers on,
Remembering friends, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers.

Sandra Hughes - November 2019


Can you see this?
Just look...
Let's push aside the fripparies,
The tinsel and the baubles,
The unimportant things
And look, look at Him -
The Baby,
The zealot,
The preacher,
The Man.
Look at Him.
Look into His eyes.
They are Truth.
They are Wonder.
They are Glory.
They are as old as the hills...
Those knowing, understanding eyes,
They are the eyes of all mankind.

Marian Dunham - December 2019

That Silent Hour

It happened in that silent hour
When it felt all life did sleep, 
The birds weren't even murmering;
Not e'en a mouse did peep.

In that quiet time I lay awake,
Though to some it may seem odd,
But as I lay and yearned for sleep
I felt the presence of my God.

There was a softness in the silence,
A difference in the air,
A gentleness, a lulling, 
That wiped away each care.

As the world began to waken 
And dawn began to creep,
That gentleness, that loveliness,
Lulled me back to sleep.

Marian Dunham - October 2019


‘How do I look?’ – A reflection by Revd. Gareth Baron 

I wonder if you have ever asked yourself the question ‘How do I look?’ No, I don’t mean what you wear, for Jesus said, “Do not worry about what you will wear”. 

I mean, how you look, with what lenses do you look through? if any. 

What experiences colour the way you see and what perspectives are you willing or not to take on board? Do you look with a glance or stop to look deeply, taking in all the details of the view before you? Are you aware of any blind spots or do you feel blinkered due to circumstances? 


So, have you ever asked yourself the question ‘How do I look?’ 

Thinking about this question is a helpful thing to do. It’s not about an eye test, more a heart thing. In the worship song, ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’, written by Michael W. Smith, the song captures this sentiment of seeing with our heart. We read in the Gospel according to Luke 24:31 ‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him’. Therefore, let us pray that our eyes our opened to see and recognize Jesus in all areas of the life of the Church and community, when we are gathered and when we our living out being disciples in the everyday. 

I offer the following questions for reflection and encourage you to find a safe space to share responses with others in a shared journeying.   

1) When I look, do I look honestly? Do I allow those feelings and thoughts that can sometimes get buried or swept under the carpet into my looking to be dealt with properly? 


2) When I look, do I look generously? Do I look at things without counting the personal cost and allowing that to shape the way I look, in particular putting aside pleasing self to enable pleasing God in the first instance? Do I look to see what difference could really look like? Do I look to see what difference could really look like when giving myself unconditionally to looking with God?


3) When I look, do I look openly? Do I look with openness to God to help me look at things differently? Do I look openly with sincerity and depth from other perspectives? Do I look openly to what God is showing me? 


4) When I look, do I look believingly? Do I look beyond all doubts and with the belief that WITH GOD all things are possible? Do I look believing that the best possible way is God’s way?

Whenever we enter into a new environment we see things for the first time. Gradually over time, our first sight becomes altered as we develop further what we see and how we understand the ever increasing acquainted environment. Often, when we consider evangelism and church growth through making disciples, we do so from our developed place of looking. This can sometimes be heavily biased from our perspectives and therefore influences how we look to create an unconscious biased view point. 

We may even be in a position of never having experienced not belonging in the Church. This isn’t a bad thing, just a perspective thing. We are who we are, God loves us all the way we are, yet God loves us too much to just leave us that way. God seeks to be the transforming factor in our lives. We therefore acknowledge that everyone is different and that includes perspectives.  

So, when we stop and ask ourselves the question ‘How do I look?’ we can then consider things with greater clarity having earnestly sought to see, not just from where we are, but from where God wants us to be. This may well mean we have greater appreciation for other people and the different perspective each person provides. With new understanding we are better placed to live out the greatest commandments of loving God with our all and loving each other. We are able to join in with God in mission and can nurture a much more natural approach to evangelism which flows out of our very being and character into our everyday living. 

In such nurturing we rediscover both our truest self and our most natural self. We rediscover the person God knows us to be and, I would suggest that we can then rediscover the means to speak in our mother tongue, which is Love - an internationally spoken language.  

Revd Gareth Baron


Revd Gareth Baron Fareweell Letter

To my friends in the Peterborough Circuit, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ: Grace, mercy, and peace from God.
I write to thank you for the beautiful card, artwork and flowers presented to Heather, Isabella and myself at my farewell service. Thank you too for the rhyming Bible and accompanying cd gifted to Isabella; she really loves this and jumped straight into it. We really appreciate these kind and thoughtful gifts, which will be a lovely reminder of the special people and time we have known whilst living in Peterborough. 
Thank you also to everyone who sent cards and emails with such kind words of blessings. I have been overwhelmed with so much love and encouragement, both sent and spoken to me in person. 
Since my farewell service I have received so many positive comments about the wonderful time of worship we shared, and what an excellent Spirit-filled sermon our District Chair, Helen Cameron, preached. I could not agree more - it was such a precious time of God-led worship, with a tangible sense of God with us and full of wow moments. For those who were not able to make it, and perhaps to help those who did hear me speak to hear without my emotions causing me to lose my place, I have included below some of what I shared during the service. Alternatively, jump to page three. 
Some of what I shared…
Just before Reverend Langley began his sabbatical, he told me to go-out-with-a-bang! I gave this some thought and wondered, “What does going out with a bang look like?”  After Google offered a few different definitions, I settled on this one: ‘To depart from a place or situation in a grand or dramatic fashion.’ 
Reflecting on this phrase, the last week of term at ‘4ALL’ church on Tuesdays at Southside, we created a living reconstruction of the painting by Eularia Clarke entitled ‘The Five Thousand’, which is found within the Methodist Art Collection. The painting depicts people of all ages sitting down together in lush green grass eating fish and chips. Unlike the painting, this scene engaged all the senses, not least my car which still holds the lasting aromas. I’d say that is departing in a grand fashion. 
I recall too the fish and chips we have enjoyed at Dogsthorpe for the annual general church meetings. Food really does attract greater attendance. There is something very relational and interactive in this type of unity over shared meals, and it doesn’t take long to understand why Jesus shared so many meals with folk.   
I consider being the Acting Superintendent without too much drama as kind of grand, although not quite to the same grandness as being Acting Superintendent of three circuits, which our Chair of District has been doing over the same period. Let us keep praying for Revd Helen in this role. 

Remembering back to last month when, on the 30th of June we gathered for a United Circuit service on a Sunday morning, the service was a dramatic, Spirit-filled, full volume time of praise and worship. That service was another time of experiencing wow moments with God. I hope the momentum of the Circuit gathering for worship in this fashion will continue.  
What I know to be true for sure…
So, I am not sure that I am going out with a bang. But.. I am sure of one thing. I am sure that I am going out with the knowledge that Peterborough is a place where you can find faithful Christian folk who love God and love others. I go with the knowledge that God’s hand is upon Peterborough in so many amazing ways: Through Light Project Peterborough, through Heart for the Hamptons, through Foodbank, through Messy Church and Messy Play, through CROPS and schools work, through Soul Survivor, New Wine United festival, through Stitches and all the pioneering missional knitters, crafters and the like, through Hope Revolution Peterborough, through HOPE for Peterborough and through so much more. I could go on and on because there really is so much that God is doing, active in people’s lives all across Peterborough. 
Ultimately, I am going out with the knowledge that the Peterborough Circuit and all our Christian friends from our neighbouring churches are open to God and readily serving God through so many different means of Grace. 
So many people and so much to give thanks to God for… 
Thank you for allowing me to serve here in the Peterborough Circuit and the local communities. I have always considered this to be a great privilege and I have been blessed throughout my time here. 
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of sharing in those most intimate and significant times of life, allowing me to walk with you and God together in both the joys and the sorrows. 
Thank you for each person, I mean everyone and, yes, it includes you - because of the person you are, because you do you beautifully and because, without you, my life and the lives of those around you would be poorer. But, most of all, Thank you for each person because you are fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves you. 
Thank you to all those who have supported me during my probationary period and during my ordained years. Thank you to those who I have had the pleasure of calling colleagues, both within the circuit and within the wider Church in Peterborough. Thank you for the great fun, fellowship and team-building on the narrowboats for staff retreats.   
Thank you to all those who have been critical friends, helping me to discern, to learn and to grow. And Thank you for all the kind words of encouragement that I have received along the way. 
Finally, just in case you missed this earlier - know that God loves you. And remember - we love because God first loved us.  May all we do and how we live reflect this.
And a final finally…
I have had this placed upon me to share so I will trust God in sharing this short reflection. In Exodus chapter 23, verse 19 it reads, ‘You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.’ (Kid refers to a goat by the way). I once heard the Old Testament tutor at Cliff College, the Revd Paul Ashby, give this translation of the passage: Do not use that which is intended to nurture and grow to destroy.  
I believe we can apply this to so much and, not least, our God-provided resources. 
God provided resources for use in God’s kingdom. I suggest these resources include love, energy, time, ourselves – as disciples, prayer and all gifts of the spirit. I would suggest further resources such as money and buildings are also included as our God- provided resources. I am not claiming that we are using these things to destroy, or that we are being deliberately destructive, but is it possible that we could use our God-provided resources better to make, nurture and grow more disciples of Jesus Christ? I would suggest the answer is ‘Yes’ - that we could make better use of these God- provided resources for God’s purposes. And it is possible because with God all things are possible. And that is my prayer - that you will continue to go with God always, in all things, and at all times. 
Pray without ceasing…
I have thoroughly enjoyed the role of Acting Superintendent over the past three months. The time has been filled with such a variety of ministerial engagements and has provided the opportunity to get to know the Circuit face to face. I have valued all the prayer support and really have felt carried by those prayers. 
In my final time in this role I would encourage everyone to continue faithfully in a commitment to pray for one another, especially continuing to hold Revd Langley as he returns from Sabbatical, and holding Revd Shameela has she begins her appointment within the Circuit. I know through the Ministry offered by Langley, Shameela and the whole people of God in Peterborough, that there will be more amazing times ahead, with great fruitfulness.   
Tell your story well…
In my final service at Dogsthorpe I preached on ‘The Parable of the good Samaritan’, reflecting upon the power of story and asking the question ‘What story will your life tell?’ I pray that all our lives would tell of the story of God’s love in all its fullness with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, that our stories would be bursting with transformation and praise of God, because the best thing of all is that God is with us!  
With Love, 

Yours in Christ, 

Revd Gareth Baron (Acting Superintendent)