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The thin place. ‘There is Room for Revelation’

We’ve reached the final week of There is Room – and our theme as we conclude this journey is ‘There is Room for Revelation’.

The Christmas story is full of it – so much of it in fact – that I wonder if we to easily gloss over the breadth and height and depth of revelation we encounter in our journey through the Christmas story.

Go right back to the beginning of the gospel story. God revels through an angel to Mary she will bear a son. God reveals to Zechariah that Elizabeth will be with child in her young age. God reveals to Joseph through a dream that Mary was pregnant, despite him know the baby wouldn’t be his.

Then to shepherds on a hillside God reveals the wonder through choirs of angels, and to Magi who saw a star, and through diligent study find prophecy revealed.

And journeying on God reveals to the Magi through a dream not to go back to Herod, and to Joseph through a dream to flee to Egypt.

And all circling a baby in a manger. God revealed as man to dwell – Jesus our Immanuel.

There is so much of God’s revealing threaded through the Christmas story. Moments where the divide between heaven and earth runs thin. Where something more of God, God’s nature, God’s will, God’s plan, God’s faithfulness, God’s presence is revealed.

One of my most personal, most tangible moments of God revealing to me was in a field at Soul Survivor. 10,000 young people gathered in a massive big top. We’d been worshipping for some time, and then ther band struck up an acoustic version of Amazing Grace. Perse by verse the band began to drop out and leave the stage, until we came to sing the last verse:

When we’ve been there ten thousands years
Bright Shining as the Sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begin.

As we song that last verse, 10,000 voices, I could have heard a pin drop. In that moment I got a glimpse of what heaven might be like – I felt the divide between heaven and earth run thin and felt a certainty in the depths of my soul of God’s presence and love for me.

While that experience was a particualrly powerful one, I believe God is always speaking to us, revealing to us, moving among us – but we don’t always notice.

Speaking through dreams, angels,
Through putting a thought in our minds,
Through a conversation with someone else,
As we reflect on life’s events.
Moments when a mundane activity or an ordinary place becomes moments of divine encounter.

As we journey into a new year – let us make room to be ready to see God among us, to and experience God’s revealing. For God is with us. Alleluia. Amen.

There is Room – for God

A Grandparent was staying with one of their children, who were having building work done on the house.

They when into a bedroom to find their grandchild jumping up and down in a playpen, crying, reaching up their arms longingly saying, saying “Out! Please! Out!”

But they knew that their grandchild had been put in the playpen to keep them safe while builders were moving equipment around in the house. 

“I’m sorry my love, they said, you need to stay in.”

But the child kept crying. Their tears and outstretched arms reached deep into the grandparents heart. What could they do? The child needs to stay safe, but they were desperate to comfort them.

Finally – love found a way – the child couldn’t come out of the playpen – so they climbed in the play pen with them.

The Christmas story is one of a loving parent seeing those they love in need, and choosing to climb in with them.

God – chooses to become flesh – human, like us – and to be born as a vulnerable babe.

There was a time when God was seen as a more distant being, somewhat beyond our reach and understanding – and only interested in those who were descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That there wasn’t room for others.

But as God comes to live among us, God does the unthinkable, the unexpected, and shows that God is not above us or beyond us, or distant from us or even against us or only for a select few…

but shows God is with us and among us.
And loves all of us.

For Mary and Joseph, when they arrived in Bethlehem the usual places of hospitality were full – there was no room. But Mary and Joseph found room – they had to – Mary was about to pop! They made room for a baby, for some shepherds – and we think there would have been some animals around too. And later in the story – at the other end of the scale – magi come along too.

A right mix of beings – who all found room to come and meet the babe – who was the Son of God. And now, 2000 years later, that opportunity continues.

There is room for you in God’s story – because God in interested in everyone. God welcomes everyone. God makes room for you, me, us and all.

The story is told of a school preparing for their Christmas play. One of the focuses of the play was to reflect the radiance of Jesus. An electric bulb was hidden in the manger and all the stage lights would go off, except the one in the manger.

On the day of the performance the moment came, the lights went out.. and so did the one in the manger. There was a period of silence when a little shepherd loudly whispered – “Hey, you’ve turned of Jesus!”

As we discover There is room in God’s heart for you, for me, for us, for all, we are offered an opportunity to respond – invited to make room in our hearts for God…

In the festivities of the season,
Turkey shortages,
Delayed Christmas deliveries,
A new Christmas jumper,
That one last person on the Christmas gift list you just don’t know what to buy for
And working out who is going to have Aunty Marjorie for Christmas Day,
Let us not turn off Jesus.

Let us not forget the reason for this season.
Let us make room in our hearts and lives for the one who made room in the world to be with us, and say to us there is room for you, me, us and all.

Is there room for conversation about inclusion?

This week, as part of a series of blog posts engaging with the Methodist Church in Great Britain’s Advent & Christmas theme ‘There Is Room’, I posted a blog titled ‘There is Room for All Ages and Genders’.

The brief blog reflected on my own experince leading a school assembly last week, and through the charcter of Mary reflected on God’s calling to all people regardless of societal expectations around age and gender.

I confess to it being the blog post in the series that I was most anxious about – because there is so much debate and vitrol around gender in particular at the moment, in society and especially on social media. But I having been moved and challenged by my own experience during the assembly, this was a reflection I wanted to share.

As always, the post also linked to Twitter, and I’ve been surprised by some of the response… challenging my use of language in the blog, suggesting it was the most exclusive depiction of inclusion and blasphemy. Others challenged that to talk about age and gender was not inclusive because and lacked narrative about abuse, appearance and beauty.

I’m not perfect, no one is, and when it comes to the use of language, we are all at the mercy of writing something that means one thing to us but gets interpreted in different ways by others. We write from our perspectives, our experiences, our limited learning and understanding.

And I know as a white, heterosexual man I write from a place of privilege and power. I’m always conscious of that, and as a result, I know there are times in my past where I have dissuaded myself from engaging in this area. Knowing others have more experience, more knowledge, more right to speak into the debate.

But recently I’ve found myself feeling challenged afresh by God that in being relatively silent, I serve to enable the powerful, not empower the powerless. That I will facilitate the marginaliser, not stand alongside the marginalised. In not being explicit in speaking up – I abuse the place in which God has placed me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at all that posting about inclusion of age and gender led to a backlash. But I think the idea that one short blog, from one voice, reflecting on my experience of one tiny part of scriptures story, should tackle every nook and cranny of inclusion, seems ridiculous.

Twitter isn’t always a healthy space – cramming what we want to say into 280 characters often drowns out the possibility of nuance and at times, friendliness.

Jesus was not afraid to challenge, but the gospel I read also shows Jesus’s character was one of compassion and grace. He taught his disciples, sometimes he rebuked them, but he also educated them.

This experience of choosing to speak out, while knowing I have less personal right to speak on it that others, leads me to ask – Is there room? Is there room for conversation? Is there room to help one another learn? Is there room to share together constructively, with compassion and grace, rather than shoot one another down?

I leave you witha short quote from John Wesley, which has guided me through many moments of diverse opinion in my early years of ministry.

“Be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion…
love each other, despite holding differing opinions.”

John Wesley, 44 Sermons

There is Room for all ages and genders

I was leading a school assembly last week. It’s the first time I’ve visited the school and I was excited to have been invited to lead a Christmas themed assembly for Key Stage 2 (age 7-11). Thought slightly less excited to get a call the night before to say that Ofstead would be around!)

We retold the Christmas story, with some help from a few of our many nativity sets, including my new inflatable one pictured below!

As we began the story in Nazareth with Mary, I was struck that some of those in the room were age 11, and therefore probably not far off the age Mary may well have been when the angel appeared to her – probably in what we’d now call her early teens. 

I then think of my eldest daughter, aged 8, and a friends daughter now aged 12, and can’t imagine the idea of them having children yet! To us today, in our 21st Century, Western society, the Christmas story is indeed one of unexpected turns and subversive moves of God. 

But yet – despite Mary’s youth, God trust her and gives her the crucial task of both bearing the child – and nurturing them after they were born. it is part of the subversive nature of the Christmas story that by coming as a vulnerable babe, God must call on a woman – not a man – to bring the Son of God to birth. We do ourselves a disservice if we neglect to remember that despite the fact scripture talks about a lot of men – there are also stories in scripture of God calling and working through non-men too! mary, Ruth, Rahab, Deborah, Rebekah, Lydia, Susanna, Esther…   

The Advent & Christmas story is filled with stories of God working in and through people that others would overlook, despite gender, age, race, ethnicity… yet in human society we are somewhat obsessed with these labels and categories… always needing to put people into binary boxes, male or Female, Brexiter or Remainer, Black or White…

But the just as God moves against the tide of human society in calling a young woman to bear the Christ-child – so too I believe God does not see the labels and categories we create. God sees people as people, made in God’s image – all loved and valued.

Let us not overlook others because of who they are or how they identify, and let us not be governed by humanly created labels and categories – because in God’s story, there is room for all. 

The Flourishing of Creation: There is Room for all of Nature

If you’re a Great British Bake Off fan, you might remember 2018 series winner Rahul. Rahul left a mark on me, not so much because of his amazing baking, but for who and how he was.

After judging, the programme shows little video clips of the bakers reflecting on their successes – or failures, and the comments from the judges.

Rahul, on numerous occasions would be in mid flow talking to camera and then suddenly divert his eyes another way and say ‘Oh look at those beautiful peonies’, or ‘ooo look at that cute puppy’.

At the time I was struck by the way he noticed & was distracted by the beauty of creation. But I was also equally struck by the fact he kept apologising for it. He apologised for noticing the beauty of nature.

nature is part pf creation – part of God’s world – and so we should notice and marvel at its beauty. And we shouldn’t apologise for that! Scripture is plastered with such awe and wonder – and so should we be. For when creation flourishes – so too will humanity flourish.

Take Isaiah 35 for example:

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:1-2; 5-6; 10.

Isaiah prophecies that creation will flourish with new growth, and as creation flourishes, so too will humanity – for the all creation together will be overflowing with joy.

It might feel a bit strange to be thinking about creation in the midst of Advent – isn’t advent about Jesus – celebrating his first coming to earth…and anticipating his return?

Well yes – but I say, why did Jesus come?

John 3:16-17, perhaps the most well known New Testament verse says:

6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

John 3:16-17

Notice that, while humanity is given particular mention – it is to the world that Christ comes, to save the world.

I hate to burst our human-centric bubble… but the world is not humanity alone. Humanity is not the centre of the universe., and that’s a truth that has been passed down for centuries… at the end of Jonah 4 we find God say to Jonah:

And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah 4:11

In God’s heart – there is room for those like us.
There is room for those not like us.
There is room for those who, like the Ninevites, were unaware of the truth of who God was…
There is Room in God’s heart for all creation.

Christ’s salvation work is not just for humanity – but for all of nature. Such is Christ’s heart and love for all life.

Christ comes to the world, to make a way and room for all.
All humanity, and all creation,
To have hope, to grow and to flourish.

And calls us into partnership with him to share the good news,
To invite people to experience the salvation of God,
To care for creation,
To live and love in hope – throughout the world.

To make room for all the world to know God’s love, hope and salvation. Because when God reigns – there is room for all of nature.

Prepare the way – There is Room for difference

In my first year of secondary school, there was a woodland behind the school, and in the woodland lived ‘Knocker’. Knocker got the nickname because, as the story goes, he hid in the woods and knocked on the trees to scare people away.

He was different, lived differently, and was shunned, gossiped about and avoided. but looking back, I have no idea what sort of person he actually was. All I knew about him was based on the bias I’d unconsciously built up through stories others had told, regardless of what the truth actually is.

John the Baptist is one who may well have stimulated similar reactions.


John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 

Matthew 3:4

The point Matthew is making is that John the Baptist was different. In his lifestyle. In his appearance. And in his message.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

Matt 3:2-3

For 400 years – the period between the Old and New testaments, there had been a perceived silence from God. No prophets, no message. Then from the wilderness comes – the literal wilderness John lived in, and the metaphorical wilderness of this silence, comes a voice saying:


“Prepare the Way!
The Promised One is coming.
Something is about to happen. To change. To transform.
Are you ready?


John the Baptist, in his difference and diversity, is a trailer for the God who is about to do something different. Radical. Revolutionary. To come and dwell with us, as Immanuel, a baby who changes everything.

In doing something different God doesn’t thrown the past out with the bathwater, but takes the story into a new chapter, where prophecy is fulfilled, when the promises of God are made known differently, where the message of love and grace is repacked and transformed – into a living, walking, breathing human being.

In Christ, God did something different.
And still today, God is at work, moving among us many ways.
Known and unknown.
Expected and unexpected.
Making Room for diversity and difference.
Because in God’s story,
When God reigns,
There is room – for difference.

God makes room for you. For me. For us. for all.
Those like us,
Those different to us.

Those like John the Baptist. Those like ‘knocker’ who are different to us, seem strange, unpredictable or unusual.

So In our story,
Will we let God reign?
Will we prepare the way to make room for the difference of God?
The difference of one another?
The transformation that comes from embracing the radical and unexpected of God and God’s kingdom.
Will we make room for difference?


“All This for You”: There is Room for You and Me

As we begin the journey of Advent, the churches I serve are following the theme ‘There is Room’, and in week 1, thinking about how, when God reigns, There is Room for You and Me.

Last Saturday, I had an experience while leading a baptism service that took the truth about how There is Room in God’s story for all to a whole new level.

I’ve done numerous Baptism in the last few years, but always for toddlers. So last Saturday was the first time I baptised a baby.

The baby I was baptising was about 6-7 months old, and as I held this helpless, dependant, innocent child in my arms, looking at his peace-filled, sleeping face, and spoke some of the baptism liturgy over them, I was somewhat overwhelmed…


for you Jesus Christ came into the world;
for you he lived and showed God’s love;
for you he suffered death on the Cross;
for you he triumphed over death,
rising to newness of life;
for you he prays at God’s right hand:
all this for you,
before you could know anything of it.

In your Baptism,
the word of Scripture is fulfilled:
‘We love, because God first loved us.’

Methodist Baptism Liturgy, Methodist Worship Book p.92-3.

I had to take a breath to remind myself I was in front of a room full of people and was leading a service! In that moment, it had become as if it was just me and this innocent baby. Like nothing else mattered but the words of truth I was speaking over them – that the truth of God’s gift to them is that There is Room.

It took the grace of God to a whole new level for me. An innocent baby who cannot yet comprehend or communicate an understanding of God’s grace – yet God outpours his grace anyway. “All this for you, before you could know anything of it.”

I had the great privilege of declaring that truth to them, their family and friends, and welcoming them into God’s family.

God’s grace transcends our human understanding. Transends our western obsession with needing to be deserving, to earn and achieve all we have.

God’s grace is outpoured on the world – through the life and love of an innocent baby, born in a manger. A baby who declares There is Room in God’s Story for you, for me, for us, for all.


Find out more about Advent & Christmas events at Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate Methodist Churches as we declare There is Room .

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Bognor Regis Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Felpham Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Westergate Methodist Church

Live to Serve

Adapted from an address delivered on 16th October 2022
at the Annual West Sussex Trefoil Guild Friendship Service
.


The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, left his marvellous violin to Genoa, the city of his birth, with one condition – that the instrument never be played.

It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has since become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The instrument that had served Paganini so marvellously is now a useless piece of rubbish.

The deterioration of this unused instrument serves to remind us that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning.

Serving is a way of being that means we live not for ourselves, not withdrawn from the world or our community, but living a life of service for the benefit of others.

Offering what we have – our gifts, skills, and resources – for the good of our community, to bring hope to the world, and to shine light into dark places.

In the Bible, we find a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples have been wanting to know more about how to live the sort of life Jesus is calling them to live. And within that conversation Jesus talks about serving others.

He says:

When you saw someone hungry and gave them food,
When you meet someone thirsty and give them a drink,
When you see someone outcast and excluded and you welcome them,
When you find someone naked and clothe them,
When someone is sick and you care for them,
When someone is trapped or imprisoned and you are there for them…
When you do these things, You do them for me.

Paraphrasing of sections of Matthew 25:31-46

What is Jesus saying?

He’s saying that the life he is calling people to live is a life in which we live with and for others. A life that serves others. A life that walks the talk and puts word into action.

And through living that way, whether we know it or not, through living a life of service for the benefit of others, we serve Jesus. Because we are serving to share and inhabit the charcter of Jesus who loves, welcomes, and cares for all.

Most recently in the nation’s minds a life of service has been celebrated in remembering the life and service of the Late Queen Elizabeth II. Her life and work as Queen has been described among many things, as one of selflessness service. 

In her 2012 Christmas message, the year of her diamond Jubilee, she reflected on God sending Jesus not to be served but to serve.

“He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.”

The late Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Message 2022

Some of you may not think of yourselves as Christian people. Others of you will. And perhaps others of you aren’t really sure where you are on the spectrum right now.

Wherever we each ourselves on that spectrum,
I believe that our service; our care for others;
our inclusion of the marginalised and outcast;
our advocacy for the silenced;
our openness to one another through our relationships, community and friendships:
serves Jesus – because we are inhabiting the qualities that Jesus taught.

So may we all be affirmed in the service we have offered,
encouraged in the service we do offer,
and inspired in the service we can offer.

As we offer what we have,
our gifts and skills, passions and resources,
to nurture relationships, community and friendship.
To live lives of service for the benefit of one another.


Downloadable PDF available via the below link.

Harvest – a Time of Gratitude

Here on the south coast of Sussex I’ve just journeyed through the joyful season of harvest among the church communities I serve.

At Bognor Regis and Felpham Methodist Churches we invited donations of groceries and cash for Bognor Foodbank, and I was astounded by the generosity I witnessed. We had tables laden with groceries, and almost £500 in donations to support their ministry.

I find Harvest a time which makes me stop and take notice of what I have. To be reminded of the seasons of the year that work together in producing abundance from our land., To see those things to be grateful for that I can otherwise take for granted. To have an attitude of gratitude and praise to God all that he provides.

One of the stories we find in the New Testament is the feeding of 5000 men, plus women and children, with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

The gathering of the huge crowd had not been planned for, it was getting late and food had not been prepared. The disciples suggest to Jesus that he calls time to the event, sending the people off to get themselves some food. But Jesus says no, you find them something to eat.

I wonder how those disciples felt in that moment? It is a wonder to me that the gospel text doesn’t go on to record the mutterings of the disciples ‘who does he think he is, we’ve told him we’ve not food, where are we meant to get the food from?’

All the disciples find are 5 loaves and 2 fish. Little is available, but the need is great. Yet with a push from Jesus what they have is made available to be shared, and with a blessing it spreads much further than anyone could have imagined.

Rather than seeing the challenge of feeding a crowd of thousands with 5 loaves and 2 fish as an impossibility, Jesus showed that with gratitude and acceptance of what we have, abundance can come.

Too often we can fall into the trap of grumbling greed. if we are not careful, society can lure us into a way of life which seeks to look after me, myself and I, gathering everything for ourselves.

But that is not the way God calls Christians to live. God calls us to live lives of gratitude, thankfulness and contentedness with what we have and receive, and to share it with others.

In the disciples sharing, their orienting themselves towards others, many more were satisfied.

“Gratitude begins with paying attention, with noticing the goodness, beauty, and grace around us. The practice of gratitude becomes more central to our communities when we stop feeding the cycles of complaint and orient our lives around praise, testimony, and thanks.

Christine Pohl, in ‘Living into Community’, p51.

Gratitude as a way of life brings us into a greater realisation of the goodness and beauty all around us day by day.

No matter what little we have, be it our time, our money, our energy, our resources, our gifts and graces, what we have in the widest sense of the word – with Christ it can be used to do immeasurable more than we may think or imagine.

To reach many people, to bring sustenance, satisfaction and goodness to people in a world which is in great need of goodness.

May we grow to live lives of deeper gratitude for what we have; lives of generosity to one another; and lives of faithfulness for all that Christ can accomplish through what we can offer.