Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Hope for New Year

almond tree we planted 3 or 4 years ago
“A Vision”
By Wendell Berry
If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons
welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.
2 trees planted by our predecessors...

Wednesday, 25 December 2019


I came across this beautiful painting...and found it so serene and filled with a gentle loving light...

Friday, 20 December 2019

Advent 4 an inner journey

Visiting Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Travelling with a group of fellow students, it must be just over fifty years ago now since I visited Bethlehem. 
Entering the church of the Nativity by the low little door felt very odd, and I suppose rather humbling as we each bent down and stumbled under the lintel...By contrast, the sense of space inside seemed quite amazing. 
But soon a guide began his practiced babble at us...no wonder only a handful chose to follow towards the steps leading down to “ye traditional cave, discovered centuries ago as the true birthplace of Jesus...yes, yes...ye ancient tradition...go slowly, slowly ...steps worn down by pilgrims back to time of Jesus... yes, yes... blessed be he...” 
...so two or three of us began slowly down into semi darkness, the only light from intermittent flickering oil lamps, and our hands guided by the cold rough rock-face...
... until we heard the slight echoing slap of sandals coming up from below & paused to allow an Orthodox monk to pass...
he stopped and smiled in greeting...and his whole face seemed to be shining with joy...something I vividly remember, even half a century later!
As small group slowly gathered in the traditional cave of Jesus birth, now hung with tapestries, and lit by oil lamps flickering before icons... and somehow, amidst the never-ending babble of strange fables from our guide, there was an underlying silence...
...a profound sense of going back in time...
...it no longer mattered whether Jesus was born in a cave deep below ground, in a stable, the back room of an inn, or a distant relative’s animal byre...maybe this marble slab did mark the spot, who knows? But a sense of peace and deep inner thankfulness that we were part of hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world who through the centuries had come to pray in this cave...this became for me one of those profound points in life where prayer has been valid.
This was before the constricting walls were built...and now I pray for another miracle of reconciliation...

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Advent 3

 “Three kings from Persian lands afar..to Jordan follow the pointing star...”  this beautiful, stately carol with a tune that makes you feel as though they are rolling along high up on a camel, travelling day after day, rising before dawn to follow the star... at a pace befitting stately kings and their royal entourage... the stuff of nativity plays...
But maybe this sixth century mosaic in Ravenna is more reminiscent of St Matthew’s  nativity story...
here three Maji : astronomers...astrologers...political advisors...wise men ? ... we know so little about them...but these three are clearly not kings...though they are dressed in Persian clothes...the clothes of wealthy courtiers maybe, advisors to kings ? ...watching the stars, drawing up the all-important horoscopes that show the most auspicious day and hour for holding important events, setting off on a journey, fighting a battle, or indeed discovering the birth of an important new leader...all part of their repertoire.

Last Christmas in Luke’s Gospel we read of nearby shepherds and angels,  but Matthew chooses to tell of  more exotic visitors from foreign lands...visitors who blunder into the king’s palace, presumably thinking the old king has died and they are looking for his heir ?
OOOps !   a mistake that later on cost many lives... and made Joseph and his family flee for their lives, living as refugees.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Advent 2

Advent 2.

Catherine Alder
Advent Hands

I see the hands of Joseph...

He could have closed his hands to her, 
said, “No” and let her go to stoning.
But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands
to this mother and her child.
Preparing in these days before 
with working hands 
and wood pressed tight between them.
It is these rough hands that will open
and be the first to hold the Child...

[these pictures of Joseph were found in Pinterest.]

Thursday, 28 November 2019


We tend to weave together all the Christmas stories and traditions into a richly colourful tapestry... but every now and then its interesting to take just one thread ...  for example, this year we begin looking at the Gospel of Matthew... and when we step inside his nativity stories we soon discover that they are told from the point of view of Joseph, and [probably true to the culture of that era ] Mary has no say at all.

“I see the hands of Joseph. 
Back and forth along bare wood they move.
There is worry in those working hands, 
sorting out confusing thoughts with every stroke.
“How can this be, my beautiful Mary now with child?”  

Rough with deep splinters, these hands, 
small, painful splinters like tiny crosses 
embedded deeply in this choice to stay with her. 

He could have closed his hands to her, 
said, “No” and let her go to stoning.
But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands
to this mother and her child.

Preparing in these days before 
with working hands 
and wood pressed tight between them.
It is these rough hands that will open

and be the first to hold the Child...”       from Advent Hands, by Catherine Alder

During Advent this December you might also like...

An Advent Calendar via daily emails from the Middle East :  www.embraceme.org

Poems for Advent :  www.journeywithjesus.net   

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Stir up Sunday

As a child I loved Stir up Sunday...we all got round the kitchen table to stir up the Christmas pudding and make the Christmas cake... and my family continued that tradition, making a really large cake to be stirred by the children at church, mixing in together all kinds of coloured fruit from cherries to dried apricots and raisins, remembering all the countries their parents had come from: all over Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe as well...the symbolism of us all being stirred up together was not lost when everyone enjoyed a small slice of that cake on Christmas Day !

So why am I showing you this painting ?!

Well, this Sunday is now called “Christ the King”...and instead of a King with bejewelled crown & costly robes, the reading today is about the Crucifixion...of Jesus, somehow amidst the pain & mockery being able to look at his persecutors and say “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”... Luke 23 v 33 - 43...

c.Janet Driver: ‘Indigo Crucifixion...”Father forgive”

...stirring up...bringing people together to celebrate their diversity... or seeing people being torn apart...separated by walls...

perhaps we need to be stirred up by the pain & sorrow in the world, and in our own country...
maybe only then, as we begin to heal the divisions and forgive...

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Christmas nativity postage stamps

One of the royal Mail’s six 2019 Christmas special stamps, created by the paper-cut artists Hari & Deepti using layers of intricate paper and light-boxes to depict scenes from the Biblical story of the Nativity.  churchtimes.co.uk
 click on link to church times, then click on ‘uk’, scroll down and you will see these beautiful stamps now on sale in uk post offices.

Saturday, 9 November 2019


from ppu.org.uk
Do click on the link above, which is for the Peace Pledge Union website.  The first person I met when  
we visited Wivenhoe some years go was an elderly lady standing stoically in the icy wind and drizzling November rain selling white peace poppies... I remember her this year, together with many others who have worked for peace & reconciliation around the world...and...
I happened to see this intriguing photo whilst searching for Isaiah 2 v 4... :)
from  www.levantium.com

“..they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks....

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Mary Magdalene

This film was indeed “intensely moving”...
Friday 1 November at 7.00pm
Introduction and Q&A by Prof Dr Joan Taylor

Dr Joan Taylor was historical consultant to the film
and is Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London.
Many thanks to Dr Joan Taylor, who faced a very eclectic audience!

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for more on Mary Magdalene please scroll down the labels on the right and click on an earlier blog page on Mary Magdalene [22 July 2018 ]

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Monday, 16 September 2019

Climate Change

Wasn’t it a former UK PM who gave such an emotional speech at the Paris Climate Change meeting, asking what he / we would say to our children & grandchildren if we failed to act on Climate Change ...?

... and then what happened ?  Subsidies cut for Solar panels & the R Severn tidal project !

what was the point ? several start - up solar panel businesses had to close down...Why nip solar power in the bud just as people were beginning to put precious savings into rooftop solar panels?
And why stop progress on the R. Severn project, when we are an island nation surrounded by potential for tidal power?

Look at our children... 
Listen to them...
Now we have the technology...lets do far more !

I am so thankful for Greta Thunberg and her silent vigils.
I am glad she persuaded our politicians to declare a Climate Emergency.
But what has happened since then ?

Friday, 16 August 2019

Seeing it differently : activities in Norwich Cathedral


I’ve just seen photos of the helter-skelter in Norwich Cathedral in today’s Church Times...
wondering what it is all about, I found the Norwich Cathedral webpage above... only to discover these interesting events only have 2 days still to run !
so...get your skates on...  its only 2 hours by train to Norwich... & there might be better weather tomorrow ...  and you might glimpse the roof bosses from the top of the helter-skelter...like this one...

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Praying through art @ Tate 20th June 2020 ...& in Wivenhoe

Two very different images...   which do you prefer ?

the photo just ‘jumped out at me’ from ‘ pathwaystogod.org ‘
I don’t know who took this photo, but it was advertising a workshop on praying through art at Tate Britain: 20th June 2020... copied from pathwaystogod.org

“Our day at Tate Britain will provide such opportunities to ‘stand and stare’, to allow a painting or sculpture to speak to our deepest selves and, in opening ourselves to the infinite, allow God to speak to us through that process of pondering. Simply by bringing our contemplative awareness of God in all things, and of God speaking to us through our deepest desires and appreciation of beauty, we hope to open ourselves to the touch of the Divine Artist and to realise our own potential as ‘God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it’ (Ephesians 2:10)
No particular knowledge of art is required – just an openness to God’s gifts.” 
Interested ? for details & booking : 

The other image is not attention-grabbing...  more fragile...Its one of a series of acid-etched glass panels which I made a few years ago, based on one of my sketches together with vivid memories of working in East Africa many more years ago...where grasses shimmer in the heat, leaves act as clever camouflage...
trying to give hints of ...well, What is it ?

...and now?... as I spend time looking at the light shining through these fragile painted, stained and etched glass panels... now...?  they speak to me more of climate change...  of the fragile beauty of our planet...
of what is already being destroyed through climate change... and yet of the hope we may be able to do something to save it...if only we act quickly... 

 “ Ngorongoro Mirage”: a series of 3 glass panels : c. janet driver.

Thursday, 13 June 2019


I have been waiting for weeks... watching as these seeds germinated and grew taller and taller into a feathery miniature jungle, full of tight buds that seemed they would never open...

...but today...finally...there is one beautiful “love in the mist”.

in our day of silent prayer last Saturday there was a sense of waiting
in which many of us felt a deep sense of peace

 why not join us on Nov 2nd for our next Silent Day

or drop into the church anytime during the day on 20th June

details : stmaryswivenhoe.org  

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Emmaus...from another angle

The Servant Girl at Emmaus
... C17th Painting by Velázquez

C20th Poem based on this painting...

She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his—the one
who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her? Had spoken as if to her?
Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he'd laid on the dying and made them well?
Surely that face—?
The man they'd crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning, alive?
Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don't recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching
           the winejug she's to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,
swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

Denise Levertov

from : www.journey with jesus.net

Emmaus: Diego Velazquez

Sunday, 21 April 2019


Mary Magdalene weeping c Janet,Driver

The shock of Jesus death must have been intense.Hopes dashed so soon...
Mary Magdalene is finally able to weep outside the tomb [St John ch 20 ]

Even then it takes time before she is able to recognise the Risen Christ...thinking at first he must be the gardener...but then “Rabbouni” joy breaks through

“Rabbouni” c Janet Driver

Shocking news of the Sri Lankan bombings in several churches, was just filtering through as we set off for our own church service. Seemingly senseless loss of life...throwing us back over 25 years ago to vivid memories of living & working in Colombo... ‘I remember the bomb shockwave which puffed out net curtains at a closed window, the curfews and roadblocks, armed military on the streets of Colombo...that was our norm. It shall not be in 2019’ [from Steph Driver’s tweet]
A friend, guessing how shocked I would feel, wrote saying that words fail...there is only silent prayer

Friday, 19 April 2019

Good Friday

Christ on the Cold Stone c 1500, Utrecht

Christ on the Cold Stone
“ The seated Christ summarises the entire Passion; he has exhausted the violence, the ignominy, the bestiality of man...Here is the abyss of suffering...” [ Emile Male, art historian ]

When I saw this statue some years ago it seemed to express the vulnerability of Jesus as he waits for his cross to be erected by the soldiers...awaiting the pain of his crucifixion.

 It comes back into my mind today, having watched the way climate change protesters also deliberately chose the way of non-violence & vulnerability this week... to enable us to see...

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Into the Wilderness...

What does this painting say to you ?

If you find it useful to begin your time of prayer with a painting, then you might like to try the daily Lenten Retreat emails from pathwaystogod.org  The painting above was from Ash Wednesday, and today’s painting was a Carravaggio...

Its amazing how spending time with a painting can show you something you have never noticed before... I had always assumed that Matthew was the young man in this detail below...

But this time I thought ‘wait a mininute, he could almost have been anyone in this painting... mabe he is the most unlikely one !’  And I wonder, what does that tell me, now, at this moment in my life?
And you?

Friday, 1 March 2019

Confirmation & Transfiguration

“Spirit of God unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove...”

 c. Yvonne Bell
artist unknown

Transfiguration   by  Jyoti Sahi
I love this painting, because Jesus is shown mysteriously identified with all the exotic Indian plants... they grow within him, revealing his unity with the whole creation: “All things were made by him...in him was life and the life was the light of humankind...”  [St John 1 v 1f] And the more you spend time genly looking at this painting, the more you see...people hidden within the branches...a waterfall flowing through Jesus [or is it somethimg else?]  Look for yourself...enlarge the image...what do you see ?

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Prodigal Son

Following the Holy Ground on Sunday 17th Feb...
Some of you might like to see the paintings from artists around the world again...

from India

by Siede Koder

Jesusmafa: Cameroon

It is possible to search  ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt ‘ for a larger image of the painting. Go deeper with the book : The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. [ ISBN:
0-232-52078-x  ] where he reflects on this painting in light of his own life journey.
The next Day of Silent Prayer will be the Saturday before Whitsun: 8th June 2019.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Jesus’ early life

Jesus “seminar” with elders in Temple: Jesusmafa: Cameroon
We know very little about Jesus’ early life... 
But Luke’s Gospel gives this story of Jesus in the Temple amazing the teachers there with his questions and answers...
Just look at the expressions on their faces !  

And maybe the two people just outside remind us of Mary & Joseph searching everywhere for him... [ Luke 2 v41-52 ]
[ I hope the Jesusmafa website will return. A whole series of beautiful paintings were available to buy as posters, originally made by a group of villagers who acted out New Testament narratives so that an artist could paint them, giving an African interpretation & context. These were highly valued by people who remember their roots in Africa.]

Georges de la Tour: Jesus & Joseph
By contrast, this painting of Jesus & Joseph in the carpenter’s workshop ... though we have  no written mention of this ... gives a vivid feel of Jesus’ home background in Nazareth.

Sunday, 3 February 2019


This painting in a small side-chapel seemed to jump out at me... but who was this elderly man looking so lovingly down at the baby ?
At first I thought the artist was following the tradition that Joseph was quite elderly...but then its more ususal to have a “Madonna & Child” painting, rather than “Joseph & child “... 
Who was this loving father/ grandfather?
But as I allowed myself to be quietly absorbed into the painting that question faded away...
the artist had something far more profound and timeless to communicate...

before leavingthe chapel, some timelater, my curiosity returned...tiny print on the frame revealed this was Simeon recognising Jesus as the Messiah...painted here in the Cameroon, with Simeon, Anna, Mary & Joseph...each in their own way regarding Jesus with awe.
St Luke 2 v 21- 38