Tag Archives: Lesley Shatwell

Lesley Shatwell’s Inclusive Church Sermon

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a church.  A nice, pretty church, St Exaltus The Great in the nice pretty village of Higher Exclusive.  Look, the parishioners are gathering for their Sunday morning service.  The surrounding lanes are chock-a-block as every neat and nice family wants to show off their expensive car on a Sunday morning.

But what’s this?  How unpleasant!  What a dreadful sight!  They have to walk past a beggar (with his dirty dog on an old piece of string) who is sitting in the church gateway.  How dare he, the cheek of it.  “Don’t worry,” reassures Mr We’ll-have-none-of-that, the churchwarden, “I’ve called the police – they will move him along.”

Inside St Exaltus The Great, everyone is singing sweetly, “All things bright and beautiful … The rich man in his castle the poor man at the gate, God made them high and lowly, each one to their estate …”

But what’s this commotion at the door?  Who’s that trying to get in?  She’s upsetting Mrs Keep-that-child-quiet and Mrs Don’t-sit-there of the Welcoming Committee – well there’s a turn up for the books!  A big black woman trying to get into St Exaltus The Great!  Here in Higher Exclusive!  We don’t see those sort of people in this village.  Some of the stronger men step forward, we can’t have her disrupting our service, she’s got rainbow coloured hair, for goodness sake!

“Let me in!  I know I am a sinner but I want to praise God for making me as I am, I want to come to God, I am a child of God!”

“She’s as mad as a hatter!  Got no business upsetting The Welcoming Committee.  Look at her in that shoddy, flimsy dress – she looks like a street-walker.”

“Wait a minute …” Mrs Nosey-parker is looking more carefully at the woman, “ … I know that one.  You’d never guess that her real name is STANLEY!  Yes, she was a boy when she was born.”

That’s too much for Gloria as she is now, not Stanley any more.  She runs from the church in tears.

“Now vicar, where were we … oh I know, let’s share the peace.”

 

The next week, all the lanes are blocked with the posh cars, there’s no beggar in the gate and no sign of the dog, just a uniformed local bobby greeting the parishioners as they arrive.  All seems well.  But there is a stranger in church.  A smartly dressed, elderly woman sitting quietly praying near the back of the church.  Mrs Get-everyone-on-the-rota has already spotted her:  she looks like she might be good at flower arranging.  The choir sings and the vicar walks in, “Good morning and welcome one and all!”

“There was no welcome for my son last week was there.”  What’s this?  The smartly dressed old lady is walking down the aisle toward the vicar.  She turns at the chancel step to face the congregation.  “Yes, my son who was sitting with his dog at the church gate.  You all pushed past him.”

“Come on, sit down now, don’t cause a scene, we want to get on with the service, we’ll talk about it afterwards …”

But the old lady was having none of it.  “What about my daughter Gloria?  You were very cruel to her.  How do you think she felt?”

The people looked at the little old lady, clean, neat and white – how could she be the mother of the tramp at the gate and the woman who was born a man and black?  Mrs Don’t -sit-there was already regretting that she had given the woman a hymn book.  The vicar stepped forward, he knew his scripture, “’Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?’  Jeremiah 7:9-10”

 

The woman smiled, “Who are the ones needing our Lord’s forgiveness and mercy?  Do you remember in our reading today when the woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter and she will not take no for the final answer?  I have come to your church today to remind you that all are welcome in God’s house … even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.  And we are all human beings: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’  Just because these people are not like you, they think differently, they dress differently, they have less money than you, they may do outrageous things and scare you … are they any less the children of our same heavenly father?”

 

Let’s close the window onto St Exaltus The Great and come back to St Mark’s here today.

 

I would be ashamed to call myself Christian if I went to a church like St Exaltus The Great.  This is God’s house and we are only passing through.  Everyone is passing through and everyone is equally as entitled to be here as we are.  We are the current custodians of our church in this community and we have the God-given task to extend God’s welcome to all.

I love St Mark’s precisely because we don’t have The Welcoming Committee of Mrs Don’t-sit-there and Mrs Keep-that-child-quiet.

 

Finally, let me remind you of the words we speak at each baptism:  “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism: by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.  We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly Father; we welcome you.”

And let us pray that all find welcome in our church today and always.

What’s a Prayer Co-ordinator?

Hello, I’m your Parish Prayer Co-ordinator. Now, I bet you didn’t know we have a Prayer Co-ordinator and perhaps you are wondering what I have been doing all this time. Prayer underpins our lives and the life of our parish. It is the way we communicate with God and it is often an individual matter between you and God. It is certainly NOT the role of Prayer Co-ordinator to interfere in any way with your personal prayer with God.

We have run sessions introducing new ideas to reinvigorate your prayer-life and this is something we could develop. You may have seen pop-up displays in church with photos, artefacts and thought-provoking quotations. Or perhaps you have missed them … they are designed to be a momentary, fresh display to inspire prayer and help you to ponder theological questions during the week. There will be more. They are part of my role: I am passionate about finding ways to get people creatively thinking about prayer.

My latest target in the parish is the Prayer Boards we have in St George’s and St John’s. The aim is to take the prayers made via these boards and present them during the Sunday service. They will be brought to the altar and blessed at the same time as the collection (not read out loud). From there, they will be delivered to me as Prayer Co-ordinator and I will ensure that they are prayed from Thursday till the following Thursday. I believe this scheme will ensure that people’s prayers are prayed and honoured both on the Sunday at the main service and during the following week.
Obviously, if there is a particular pastoral issue, I will relay that to the ministry team. We will be trialling this scheme for three months, starting on 1 October.

If you have any ideas or concerns about this scheme, or the prayer-life of our parish generally, please let me know.

Lesley Shatwell (LLM)
llm.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

Thy Kingdom Come – Praying the Psalms

It doesn’t seem like a year since I was hastily putting together an exhibition of paintings depicting the Lord’s Prayer.  Artists with strong connections to our parish each took a line from the prayer and created an image.  Musicians and singers performed, and scones were enjoyed.  Amid all this festivity, we remembered that our Archbishops of Canterbury and York had set the ball rolling when they called for a wave of prayer to cross our country.

This year, they have called again; and as I write, artists are planning their response, bakers are checking their recipes and singers are practising their new repertoire.  This year, our theme is the Psalms and we are hoping that our pictures may stir up new ideas and ways of looking at these ancient songs.

Praying the Psalms – good heavens, what have those old things got to do with our lives today!  What is a Psalm anyway?

To start with, you can find them in the Old Testament because they are part of our Christian inheritance from the earlier Judaic tradition.  Open the Bible, about half way through and flip back a bit and you will find 150 Psalms lurking between Job and Proverbs.  They are ancient songs written by the Hebrew people.  If you look at the headings, you will see (for example Psalm 15) “A Psalm of David”.  We have legends of King David writing the Psalms and often you can see pictures of him, with his harp, wrestling with some poetical tracts … but this is just a legend.  We do not know for certain who composed the Psalms, there could have been several authors.  There are Psalms of joy, Psalms of despair, deep anger with God … I think we have lost the ability to have a really good lament.  The Psalms hurl so much grief and anger at God and there is nowhere better to aim it.  God is big enough to take all our human suffering – together with our joy, delight and thanksgiving for our world.  The Psalms give voice to it all.

psalms

(Photo: King David, from a 6th century mosaic from Gaza)
http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Gaza.html#Anthedon

 

Our exhibition will give a tiny glimpse into these ancient songs, I pray that it will open your eyes to look again at the Psalms and perhaps be glad when they say, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (see Psalm 122).

 

Art Exhibition: open 25 May – 4 June 2017 at St John’s, Hale

Pentecost Party:  Psalms, art, music, refreshments: 4 June at 3.00 pm (St John’s, Hale)

 

 

A Mindful Day

On 1 October, we held a Mindfulness workshop day at St Mark’s. Despite earlier misgivings on my part, 18 people braved the rain and made it to St Mark’s.
Leading the day was our mentor, Suzette Jones (Diocesan Health and Well-being Adviser) and we had a variety of Mindful workshops, led by Suzette, Simon and myself. We had decided to split the day into two halves, which seemed to work well for people – some came for the full day whilst others attended for either morning or afternoon.

Mindfulness is a completely accessible method of meditation. Whilst it is not uniquely Christian, increasingly Christian practitioners are rediscovering this compassionate form of meditation. There were times to sit and meditate followed by “inquiry” – which gives the opportunity to compare experiences and thoughts within the group. We were introduced to Mindful Movement, becoming aware of tension and relaxation in our bodies. Mindful Flowers began with a meditation for participants to call to mind someone who needs their prayers. We then made and decorated flowers, wrote the name of that person on the flower before honouring the prayers by placing the flowers in a circle in church.

It was a very full day, drawn to conclusion with Mindful smiling. How hard can it be to smile for a whole thirty seconds? Just try it yourself.

Lesley Shatwell

The wave of prayer takes Lesley Shatwell to Lambeth Palace

“It is impossible to overstate the life-transforming power of the Lord’s Prayer … When we pray it with sincerity and with joy, there is no imagining the new ways in which God can use us to his glory.”

Sent out earlier this year, these words are from a letter from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury to all parishes in the Church of England.  They were encouraging people to be part of a “great wave of prayer”, bringing the Lord’s Prayer into everyone’s life.

Have you ever felt the pull of waves in the sea … you stand there, feeling the tug of the next wave and if you jump at the right moment, the wave carries you on in towards the beach?  It was just like that for me, the phrase, “a great wave of prayer” scooped me up with the tidal momentum and I surfed with it.  At that moment, I knew our parish would be part of the movement, how could we not be involved?

But time was short.  I attended a training session run by the diocese and the vision grew.  We could have an exhibition.  I could ask artists in our parish to take a line or two of the Lord’s Prayer and illustrate it.  Let’s have the exhibition at St John’s, we can keep the church open all week and people can drop in and see the exhibition.  Oh, and we could make it a social, outreach time too, let’s have scones at the weekends … well if you’re going to have scones, you’ll have to have music …

And before I knew quite what I’d let myself in for, the event was already taking on a life of its own.  We felt the tug of the great wave of prayer gathering speed.

Hard work or what!  You try getting artists to work to a deadline.  Would it fit into St John’s, there are a lot of pews …  Would anyone come?  When it came to the picture of temptation, would anyone other than me be tempted to take a chocolate?

I needn’t have worried.  The Lord’s Prayer is greater than all of us and with that as our subject and fully in our thoughts, the week was a great success.  I was rather sad when we took the exhibition down, when all the musicians and singers had gone home, when the last of the scones disappeared.

But that was not the end, the great wave of prayer has rolled on.  Rolled into the Prayer Yurt for the Hale Carnival, rolled on into schools where, I’m told, the children love Emily’s picture of “Bread”.

And then things really did go quiet.  I have “Our Father, who art in heaven” on the wall of my study and I gaze at it when I need to catch the wave again.

“Upon arrival there is a wooden door to the right of the main entrance.  Please knock on this and someone from the Gatehouse will meet you.”

The great wave of prayer is carrying me further into quite uncharted waters.  Today, I have been to Lambeth Palace to be filmed for a short, promotional film to encourage people to catch the wave next year.

I was nervous as I knocked on the door.  I’ve never been to Lambeth Palace.  I’m certainly not a natural film star.  Was there anything I could possibly say which might help to inspire another parish?  But I felt the tug of that wave again, carrying me along.  Please God, let me share my enthusiasm.

What a marvellous day.  I was filmed in the crypt, such a beautiful, peaceful venue.  Everyone was supportive and encouraging and I told our story.  Yes, I forgot all that I’d meant to say.  Yes, I stumbled over my words.  Yes, I needed several “takes” and reminders.  But yes, I did it!  I’m quite sure that I’ve given the team a huge task of editing through the out-takes and sifting through my ramblings.  Perhaps they will only use a couple of seconds of me, but if that’s so, I pray that they capture the light which started in our parish community when we held our “Thy Kingdom Come” exhibition.  May the great wave of prayer roll on and catch many more people into the Lord’s Prayer.

Lesley Shatwell

Here is the video:

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Licensing: is it just about being “done”?

On 25 June this year, I made promises to God and to Bishop Andrew.  Promises such as declaring “my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures”, my “obedience to the Bishop of Guildford … in all things lawful and honest”.  I promised that I would “promote peace and unity” – that’s a big ask these days, I think I might have my work cut out on that one alone.  And also I promised to be obedient “to the minister in whose cure I may serve” – that’s obedient to Alan and Lesley – but only provided that what they ask of me is lawful and honest.  Heavy, solemn promises … crikey, what brought me to this point?

And people ask me, “What’s it like now you’re ‘done’?”.

Well, it’s been a long journey, for me and for all those who have supported, guided, helped and prayed for me.  Thank you to you all – particularly Alan and Lesley and especially my poor, long-suffering husband Bob.  Three years: 39 pieces of marked work (average 60% mark), Monday evenings over at Guildford, residentials, sermons, parish placement …

But what is it really like being “done”?

If I’m honest, I remember little of the day itself.  The week before, I had finished my final assignment on the practical aspects of pastoral care, so all my coursework was done.  Nothing left hanging over me, but through that week, I became more aware of a deep feeling which had started as unease, morphed through worry into a state of panic, tinged with excitement.  Dear God, am I ready for all of this?

“You’ll be fine, no need to worry, it’s normal to get butterflies …”  Yes, I’m sure it is all right for you.  But this is me, I’m the first person ever in the whole world to feel apprehension – er well, maybe I exaggerate a bit … Actually, the most helpful comment I received during this time was from a lady at St John’s who assured me that already she could see the joy of God within me as I inhabited the role of minister.  What a lovely thing to say, thank you.

So the great day finally came.  The service was scheduled for 5.30 pm at St Peter’s, Farnborough.  I and my fellow Licensed Lay Ministers-in-waiting had spent the day in shared, quiet study and preparation – by now, the butterflies had turned into giant pterodactyls and I was a bit shaky.  Would Beki, my daughter make it, would Mum manage to get into the church in the wheelchair, would I stumble over the words in my reading or perhaps trip over my robes?  Oh heck!

But then, we made our promises to Bishop Andrew and lined up to go into church for the service where we would be “done”.  Waiting in the procession outside in the sunshine, I felt a huge sense of relief.  I’d made it!  Beki had arrived safely, Mum was carefully installed at the end of a row, I could almost quote the Old Testament reading I’d rehearsed it so much.  My friends, family and supporters all ready to cheer me on and the sun shone.  Now all I had to do was pledge my life to God.

Do you know the feeling, when so much is going on around you, you are caught up in the midst of it all and you simply go where you are told and do what you’re told?  At times, the service felt a bit like that.  But somewhere between the time outside when I had felt sense of relief and part way through the service when we sang “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul”, nervous anxiety had done a complete somersault into pure joy so I could “sing like never before …”  There is such depth to God’s love and at times, very special times, we are able to catch a glimpse of God’s love at work in our lives.

“Done”?  I’ve only just begun!

My Licensing as LLM

“For Reader [Licensed Lay Minister], one should be appointed after he[she] has been carefully proved; no babbler, nor drunkard, nor jester; of good morals, submissive, of benevolent intentions, first in the assembly at the meetings on the Lord’s Day, of a plain utterance, and capable of clearly expounding, mindful that he[she] assumes the position of an Evangelist …” This comes from “The Apostolic Church Order” which was published before 200 AD. Readers (LLMs) have been around for a good few hundred years, although it wasn’t until 1969 when women were first licensed.

I have been studying for the last three years so that I can be licensed to minister in this parish. At times it has seemed a very long time indeed and now, at last, on 25 June I will be licensed by Bishop Andrew at St Peter’s Farnborough together with my two fellow students and perhaps others renewing their license for this diocese. I will have completed three years of training in topics as diverse as Christian Ethics, how to prepare and give a sermon, Bible Studies – hermeneutics (Old and New Testaments – and a bit of the Apocrypha!), Church History, Mission and Evangelism (didn’t enjoy that one much), Doctrine – that was probably my favourite – oh and Spirituality and Pastoral Theology. And in my spare time, I’ve been attending church!

So I am coming to the end of this part of my studies (I have another four years within the system still because the Church of England doesn’t let anyone loose that quickly, there’s no knowing what I might say to you!). Alan and I have been discussing my future role within the parish, particularly because I won’t be the only newcomer in July: Hannah will be joining us as curate. As a lay minister, I have a certain degree of flexibility about my ministry, so I am still on a voyage of discovery. I am interested in creative worship and different ways of exploring God – prayer stations, labyrinth, music, art, storytelling, play. God calls every one of us. And God gives us gifts to serve Him and to share with others. We are happiest and at our most alive when we walk within our God-given-gifts. God has called me to become a Licensed Lay Minister here and I am so excited to discover where He leads me in my ministry.

But for the time being, I invite you all to come to my licensing:

St Peter’s Farnborough, Saturday 25 June, 5 for 5.30 pm.

If you can’t get to my licensing, perhaps I will see you in church on Sunday 26 June when I will be racing round the whole parish to see as many of you as I can at each of our churches. At St Mark’s we will be sharing a buffet lunch at 12 noon – please come along.

Licensing, hum … I suppose it will be proved that I’m no babbler and I think my morals are good and I certainly have benevolent intentions.

Lesley Shatwell

 

Have you visited St John’s this week?

“a wave of prayer …”

In our parish of Badshot Lea and Hale, in Surrey, we decided to answer the call to prayer with an art installation, featuring work from artists based in our parish or with a very strong connection to the parish.

From this initial thought, the idea took hold.  “I’ll make scones, it will give a real English summer’s day feel.”  “And jam, we must have lots of jam.”
“What sort of music do you want?  I’m sure the choir would like to sing …”

And so it continued until suddenly we had a full parish event!  We called upon artists aged between 6 and 92 to give their own interpretation of a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer and we have a wonderful, eclectic response.

After some nervous moments … would the art be ready?  Would anyone come?  Finally we opened our doors on Sunday 8 May.  And people came, viewed the exhibition, ate scones and listened to the music.
Here are some of their comments:
“Beautiful installation, thank you for all the work that has gone into this.  Inspiring”
“Great idea, great show – could they stay here?”
“It’s good to be reminded of the Lord’s Prayer at work in our lives.”

St John’s can seem quite a deserted place, but that day, I thought the church itself really came to life, got up and danced for joy.  The power of the Lord’s Prayer at work within our community.

And we are going to do it all again this weekend.

Lesley Shatwell
LLM (in training)

Marking 150 years of Reader Ministry

 

Lesley Shatwell, our LLM in training helped St John’s and St Mark’s mark the 150th anniversary of the restoration of Reader ministry in the Church of England by preaching this sermon (well sort-of, she got heckled at St Mark’s so didn’t get through it all… ).

“For Reader, one should be appointed after he has been carefully proved; no babbler, nor drunkard, nor jester; of good morals, submissive, of benevolent intentions, first in the assembly at the meetings on the Lord’s Day, of a plain utterance, and capable of clearly expounding, mindful that he assumes the position of an Evangelist; for whoever fills the ear of the ignorant will be accounted as having his name written with God.”  This comes from “The Apostolic Church Order” which was published before 200 AD.  Mind you, by AD 500, the position of “Reader” had fallen into decline.  It wasn’t until 1561 that the office was revived, but then there were very clear rules:  a Reader was to ‘move men to quiet and concord, and not give them cause for offence’.  They weren’t allowed to do the important things like administering the sacraments, but they were allowed to bury the dead.  Oh and it goes without saying they could not be women.  It seems as though they were a cheap form of priest.

However, 150 years ago on Ascension Day 1866, the office of Reader was revived for a second time.  It happened during a time of huge expansion of the church, particularly within cities of the industrial north and there simply weren’t enough vicars to cope.  Readers took on the role of teacher in Sunday Schools, leading worship in mission halls and teaching Bible classes.  Being lay ministers, they were seen as bridging the gap between the ordained clergy and parishioners.  One clergyman even describing them as ‘the better educated from among the uneducated’ – what a disparaging view of his parishioners that man must have had!

The First World War turned many people’s lives upside down and inside out.  Readers were encouraged to preach during the evening service.  After the war, the element of preaching was retained.  In the 1920s, the first national organisation specifically for Readers was created.  Readers were given better training and standards were raised.

However, it wasn’t until 1969 when women were first licensed – just think what the world had been missing in all those years!  And today, according to the Church of England website, there are more than 10,000 active Readers in the Church of England.

In 2009, the name Licensed Lay Minister (LLM) was coined to replace the term “Reader”.  It was thought to reflect more clearly exactly what we do, but I am not sure it does.  Yes, we do more than read – although through my course I have wondered about that as I wade through the mountain of set books!  We are ministers of the church, but we are laity.  We get into all kinds of places, most are licensed to a parish but some are chaplains in prisons, hospitals, hospices or schools and a few are in charge of parishes.  We have been described as ‘theological resource people working within a pastoral context’.  But what does that really mean?  And more particularly, what does it mean to me and our parish?  On 25 June, provided I pass my remaining assignments, Bishop Andrew will license me to this parish – yes you are stuck with me, I’m not being moved on to another parish.  I will have completed three years of training in topics as diverse as Christian Ethics, how to prepare and give a sermon, Bible Studies – hermeneutics (Old and New Testaments – and a bit of the Apocrypha!), Church History, Mission and Evangelism (didn’t enjoy that one much), Doctrine – that was probably my favourite – oh and Spirituality and Pastoral Theology.  And in my spare time, I’ve been attending church!

So I am coming to the end of this part of my studies (I have another four years within the system still – oh the Church of England doesn’t let anyone loose that quickly, there’s no knowing what I might do to you!).  Alan and I have been discussing my future role within the parish, particularly because I won’t be the only newcomer in July:  Hannah will be joining us as curate (hooray!).  As a lay minister, I have a certain degree of flexibility about my ministry, so I am still on a voyage of discovery.  As you look around you will see an art installation here (come back this afternoon – between 2 and 4 and there will be tea, scones and music too).  I am interested in creative worship and different ways of exploring God – prayer stations, labyrinth, music, art, storytelling, play … wow – now I’m getting carried away!

God calls every one of us.  And God gives us gifts to serve Him and to share with others.  We are happiest and at our most alive when we walk within our God-given-gifts.  God has called me to become a Licensed Lay Minister here and I am so excited to discover where He leads me in my ministry.

Listen, is God calling you?