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Once more my trusty green rucksack was packed, new walking boots at the bottom. Once more I am a not so lightly packed pilgrim as I aspire to be. Once more the nerves and excitement rise at the beginning of a new adventure.

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A couple of months ago now, in October 2016 I set off on another exploration of pilgrimage. The travel was with the Abbey of the Arts (http://abbeyofthearts.com/) – an organised retreat to the Sacred Edge of Ireland, setting out to be Monks in the World.

Once more, I determined to travel on public transport, which meant train from Banbury, changing at Birmingham New Street, and Crewe, to Holyhead where the ferry took me across to Dublin.

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I spent the night in Dublin before catching a train across Ireland to the west coast, to Galway.

“Aren’t you brave – travelling on your own?” said two women I chatted with on Banbury station as we listened to a notice about a delayed train. I didn’t feel especially brave. I was quite excited and looking forward to some time away. I was also nervous and hoping that travel connections would work and that I could pick up the tickets I needed for the remainder of my trip. Plus so many other unknowns – what would this retreat be like? What would the other people be like?

In Galway, at the Adare Guesthouse the pilgrims gathered, already experiencing the  generous welcome and care from the owners Grainne and Patrick. Next we met the hosts of the retreat, Christine and John, who would be our guides. In their gorgeous living room, overlooking Galway Bay and adorned with picture of dancing Celtic saints, we began the pilgrimage. What had brought us here, at this time in our lives? For many of us there was some sort of threshold that we were about to cross, or had crossed – loss, healing, retirement. I hoped to be inspired by the adventurous Celtic saints into being my own form of adventurer. I hoped to do some more remembering of who I was. This was a good season to do that remembering, the Celtic season of Samhain, including the feast of All Saints and All Souls, was beckoning. This was the time to remember our ancestors and witnesses around us, in community with us. We learnt a song that would be one of the refrains we would return to:‘The peace of the rolling waves to you, the peace of the shining stars. The peace of the blowing air to you, the peace of the quiet earth …’ Song, movement, poetry, ritual, story would continue to accompany us along the way.

Over the next week or so, we explored monastic themes, as we visited sacred sites in and around Galway: hospitality, community, kinship with nature, silence and solitude, sabbath, work and service, conversion. What riches we received! I’m just going to give a little flavour in this blog account.

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Making a Brigit’s cross.

Welcome and Hospitality – This theme infused all our time together. Our hosts, our guides, the Irish people we met – we often heard, ‘You’re welcome’. It was a genuine expression – no empty words. We were so well fed! In soul and body we were so well fed. Our meals were all amazing. From the many breakfast options in the guesthouse, to meals out in one of the hundreds of eateries in Galway, to the amazing goats cheese salad lunch on the isle of Inis Mor – nothing disappointed. It was all delicious.

Belonging and Companions – I found myself the only ‘Brit’ among a group of Americans and one Canadian. How would this work out, I wondered?! Well, there were some separations of language and we explored different meanings of words that we shared and yet had very different interpretations! And then living, eating, walking, talking, being playful pilgrims together did its work of creating us into people with common hopes, longings, hurts and dreams. One lunch time I bought a book from one of our guides. ‘Ah’ he said, ‘you’re the Brit!’ Yes, I said, a little embarrassed. Around me there was laughter – the warm laughter of friends, of acceptance. I had feared that I, or the others, would be too different, and my fears had proved unfounded. I was part of the group. We were a group of fellow pilgrims, of ‘monklings’.

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On Inis Mor.

Passion – All around us were people with passion. John and Christine had followed their hearts to find a home and whole-hearted work in Galway, the wild west edge of Ireland. They had moved from Seattle, to Vienna and then to Galway. They were passionate about the importance of contemplative practice, creativity and imagination, to human flourishing. They were skilled in sharing, teaching, encouraging, communicating their passion and inviting us to (re-)discover our own passions. Playful practices helped us to go deeper. Orla and Niceol led us in storytelling games, and reminded us we all have a story to tell and we can tell it. We think we have no connection, that we are alone or too different to others, and we do have connection to others. They dared us to say yes to play, to failure, to being human! Our guides on our days out and about, at Brigit’s garden, in the wild Burren, on the Arran Islands, were all people of passion. Jenny at Brigit’s garden had a vision of creating a natural environment that reflected the themes of Celtic seasons and the gifts of the Celtic saint Brigit. Tony, our walking guide on the Burren, had left his work as a ‘petty bureaucrat in Dublin’ to follow his passion for the land, for connecting history, politics, faith, story, geology, flora and fauna. Dara on the Arran Islands, told us of his journey to minister in a different way, leaving behind the dogmatism and universalism of the Catholic priesthood, to become a priest in the Celtic tradition, more intimately connected and rooted in one place, in these islands, and offering ritual to mark key moments in the lives of islanders. The musicians we heard in Galway, and at our final gathering. Our kind and friendly driver Cormac, who was also very much part of the group. They all reminded us that there can be another faithful way to live whole-heartedly in this world.

My work is loving the world .. Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…

Mary Oliver, The Messenger

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Joyful, live music in a packed pub in Galway.

Gift – There was so much gift, so much to receive and be thankful for. Each day brought beauty, generosity, heart-opening times. Each day I thought had been the best, and the next day there was more. And the more did not diminish what had gone before. Truly all was gift. At the end of the retreat, we gathered in the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey. We gave each other a piece of apple, dipped in honey, saying to one another: ‘May you savour the sweetness of your life.’ Later, we were invited to write a poem of instruction – some words to take away and come back to as we continued to seek the way of the pilgrim, the way of being a monkling in the world.

There is always more

to receive as gift.

Walk. Sing. Savour. Take my hand.

 

 

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Another season, another opportunity for photos and haiku. This time I used the United Methodist Church daily prompts for Lent 2016 #rethinkchurch http://www.rethinkchurch.org/articles/spirituality/2016-lenten-photo-a-day-practice

It’s been good today, as I take a break after Holy Week and Easter, to review all the pictures and words.

Here’s the gallery of pictures and words (which you can also see on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/revhillers/):

 

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Stop for a moment, and hear the voice that calls you to pay attention. #voice #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Look. I am growing. Down here, among the stones, here is my flowering. #look #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #haiku

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The gaze is soft and strong. Believe, she says, kneel down, sing! Justice will come. #injustice #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #haiku #quietday #ettyhillesum

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As around the sun the earth knows it’s revolving I’ll be loving you. #always #celebrate #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #haiku

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Frost settles on the grass. Just enough beauty for now. Today’s soul food. #settle #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #haiku

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Setting out again. Getting ready for the journey home. Time to go. #go #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #photoaday #haiku

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Here on the doorstep, the mighty tree stretches up, as walkers pass by. #mighty #rethinkchurch #photoaday #rethinkphoto #lent2016 #haiku

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Candles and colours take refuge on window ledge, each with their story. #refuge #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Taking all the cracks to heart makes love a different and a precious thing. #love #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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A gust of wind blows and the flower head bows, dances, coming alive. #live #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Words making music. Four quartets celebrate time present. All is well. #celebrate #rethinkchurch#rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #tseliot #storytelling

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Sometimes the vision is clear. Often it is not. Take time. Keep looking. #vision #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Choose words – spoken, written, lived, that make a promise to love and live by. #covenant #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Shelter under a living roof, growing, shaping a strong sense of home. #shelter #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Walking on boldly into a tomorrow full of blessings and joy. #joy #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku This photo is of a striding sculpture in Salisbury cathedral grounds a few years ago. It reminds me of the striding Madonna which always lifts my heart. I felt the same seeing the photos yesterday of the consecration of Karen Gorham as Bishop of Sherborne in the diocese of Salisbury.

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Living God, living and strong, loving and gentle have mercy on us. #heal #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Country skills preserved and displayed to create a living, well-laid hedge. #see #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Gather in the tiredness, hold on to some hope, know it is enough. #celebrate #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku Preparing for school assembly in the midst of tiredness. Didn’t feel a lot like celebrating but enjoyed making the frogs (for a leap day message!)

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Longing for justice, as a girl takes the long walk in search of water. #thirst #wateraid #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Looking in, looking out – witness this moment before it flies away. #witness #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Who knows what may be found before the seasons turn and the blossom comes? #found #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Look up, marvel, and see the power of flight written across the sky. #power #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Look out at the view. Take a breath to help accept the gift of this day. #help #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Piece by piece. Keep putting the pieces together. The picture will come. #endure #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #jigsaw #heartpuzzle Held a marriage preparation day yesterday and couples got very involved in this puzzle, which is a heart shape and fiendishly hard.

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What flowers when we allow the time and space and let ourselves be loved? #celebrate #mothering #flowers #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku Paper flowers made at Claydon church Mothering Sunday celebrations.

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What strange beauty the wild spirit of life creates if we can but see. #spirit #wild #branches #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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In the silence may more be heard : songs of hope, voices often ignored. #silence #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku This is one of my favourite songs, arranged here by John Bell of Iona Community. We sang it at some of our Mothering Sunday services and it feels appropriate too as we remember International Women’s Day. #IWD2016

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You may find yourself in a new place, seeing the world through eyes of faith. #faithful #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Surrounded by sights, where will you look, what will you see? Picture it now. #surround #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Three figures stand, reflecting on wonder, work, birth. A new world appears. #world #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #stmartinsinthefields #dicksheppardchapel

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Listen. See the words appear. The shape of conversation and question. #listen #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #signlanguage #diocesansynod Signers listening carefully to debate at Oxford Diocesan Synod.

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Feel the warmth, allow the herbal scent to soothe weary feet. Time to rest. #celebrate #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #feet Today’s gospel is of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet. Later in Holy Week we will remember Christ washing feet. This photo from a few years’ ago is after I’d done a sponsored walk in Kidlington. Ahh!

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One more step along the way. Follow the sign or take road less travelled? #path #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Find a way to remember the stories that come just at the right time. #remember #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku Holy Week box to remember and re-tell the stories coming up to Easter.

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A place where people come to discover another way to see life. #people #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku #art #nationalgallery

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Move, dance, sing out. Who needs to hear this? Today it will restore their soul. #restore #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Heard the joyful song of the skylark, somewhere up in the cloud-filled sky. #beloved #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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To have and not to hold onto. Shock of yellow flowering by road. #have #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #haiku

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Lay down your cries, call out your hopes, shout for true peace. Do not be silent. #celebrate #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #lent2016 #palmsunday #haiku

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Give thanks for the word crafters, making room, allowing more to happen. #thanks #rethinkchurch#rethinkphoto #photoaday #holyweek #poetryday #rsthomas #jimcotter

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Stone by stone this pillar stands for all that lasts and what we need to know. #steadfast #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #holyweek #haiku

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Once part of a home, now discarded chaos, as something new begins. #rejected #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #holyweek #haiku

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Something stark, simple, imperfect, chaotic. Stop. No words are needed. #need #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #holyweek #haiku

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Walking in sunshine and shade. Wondering what will be found on this path. #path #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #goodfriday #haiku

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Enter this day, which is for breathing, in and out. Feel the earth breathing. #enter #rethinkchurch#rethinkphoto #photoaday #holyweek #haiku Photo taken 4 years ago at the beautiful Lumen URC looking up to the Ray of Light in the ceiling

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This is the day when a line is drawn, when anything is possible. #celebrate #rethinkchurch #rethinkphoto #photoaday #easter #haiku

This Advent I’ve been following the #adventword practice from the Anglican Communion http://adventword.org/ with daily photos and words shared on instagram https://www.instagram.com/revhillers/

It developed into a daily haiku. Here are the pictures and words.

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#wakeup

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Musical angels make the most of their gifts. #bathabbey #proclaim

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First Christingles of this year ready to give away. #adventword #give

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Forgive. Sit down side by side in winter sunshine. Then turn face to face. #adventword #haiku #forgive

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See. There is a crack. See. There is a crack. See. There is a crack. The door will open. You’ll be surprised by welcome. #repent #adventword #haiku

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Pay attention to that which feeds the soul. It may not all be sparkly. #worship #adventword #haiku

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Longing to find more time the season offers the gift of this moment. #believe #adventword #haiku

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Take care, I always say, needing still to learn how to risk being loved. #care #adventword #haiku

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Be ready to be surprised by life, open to gift of company. #be #adventword #haiku

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The light in this place always surprises. Patterns appear from nowhere. #surprise #adventword #haiku

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Why is the world so beautiful? Why not, asks the blushing evening sky. #ask #adventword #haiku

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Go, go, go! Leap over the barriers and take on life in its fullness.#dare #adventword #haiku

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Into the embrace of darkness a window of light holds out a hand. #shine #adventword #haiku

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Wait. Into this dark season colour will come. There will be blossoming. #wait #adventword #haiku

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Never fail to find joy in the ordinary. Oh star of wonder! #wonder #adventword #haiku

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Make room to accept tiredness as today’s gift. Time to take time out. #accept #adventword #haiku

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Listen. The children know how to tell the story so that we can hear. #listen #adventword #schoolnativity #haiku

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Come. Sit. The story will begin again soon. This time is just for you. #invite #adventword #haiku

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Lean into the light. Let longing flower, opening up this moment. #desire #adventword #haiku

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Prepare to go in a different direction. Take a road less travelled? #prepare #adventword #haiku

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The journey is long. Will it come to an end? May rest and refuge come. #hope #adventword #haiku

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Find another view. What can be seen from this place? Take a good long look. #look #adventword #haiku

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Experience the full picture of Advent – room for colour and space. #experience #adventword #haiku

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Light, symbol, colour. Each prayerful step has its own way of revealing. #pray #adventword #haiku

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Light comes in and out of this place, built of wood, stone, breath, prayers, tears and joy. #reflect #adventword #haiku

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Receive the gift of this precious night, lit by the full moon, and rejoice. #receive #adventword #haiku

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Hush! The child sleeps, dreaming of dazz’ling starlit skies, enfolded in love. #dazzle #adventword #haiku

Play time

Anything with the word ‘play’ in it immediately draws my attention. Why? Well, I need to play, basically! I notice that since I’ve been ordained I have found ways to give myself permission to play. I’ve been drawn to play with words in storytelling. I’ve been drawn to play with singing. I’ve been drawn to the Godly Play approach to discipleship and exploring the language of faith. I’ve been drawn to drawing and doodling prayers.

I’m about to start an online course, called ‘Exploring Play’. So far the participants are introducing themselves. Some (like myself) a little shyly and others with paragraphs packed with descriptions of experience and expectations. There are common themes: curiosity, learning, fun, stretch, pondering, passion, work, time, creativity, risk …

Why think about play, when all around us is so much that might cause us to despair? Because play can dare us to face dark, dangerous places and times, tapping into our sometimes underused imagination and finding ways to respond. Play can invite us into doing serious work, it can beckon us to find the delight of true rejoicing, play can put us back into good relationship with the world around us, with other people, with ourselves … with God.

As the seasons change once more, as autumn playfully colours the land and Advent peeps out of the darkening skies, maybe play will be a good ministerial companion. The playgroup that is the community of God continues to draw me, and keeps drawing us into becoming radical, playful and compassionate communities.

It is time. Let us play.

Let us colour over the

faithful lines of life.

May it be so.

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A kind-of summary of what I did as part of the #30dayswild challenge. I wrote some haikus which can be seen on my twitter page. https://twitter.com/revhillers/with_replies

30 days wild calendar

30 days wild calendar

Now I’m going to have a bit of a break from a daily doodle. Though I’m sure that I’ll return to it in good time.

This is what I am doing for June:

http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/

I love this idea of random acts of wildness, of remembering how much we need the wild.

Here are a couple of haikus I’ve written for the first couple of days:

The sound of wind down the chimney: wild singing to celebrate June.

Raindrops glisten on clover leaves, a green growing three-in-one carpet.

Hedgerow flowers along the road to Great Bourton.

Hedgerow flowers along the road to Great Bourton.

#30dayswild

The work of doodling and colouring continues, through May, covering the season of Easter up until Trinity Sunday.

May 2015 doodles

May 2015 doodles