Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pictures of love blog 9 'The Angel of The North'

Decembers guest blog for 'Pictures of Love' is by Rev. Elaine Lindridge, she is the District Evangelism Enabler for the Newcastle Upon Tyne Methodist District, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog or any of the other blogs in the series. We would also wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas. 

I just love this view from my house – and as I look out on a morning I see Britain’s largest sculpture. I remember watching on the day this giant angelic work of art was hoisted up & then dropped into the ground – that was February 1998. How amazing, not just because it’s a work of art, but because it’s an angel! And for me it reminds me of where I belong. And when I’m driving up or down the A1, I see this magnificant angel, Jumbo Jet wing arms outstretched, kind of welcoming me home.

The Angel of The North has been described as a symbol of renewal or regeneration, which is really appropriate to this region as we’ve undergone massive social and economic change. It’s also significant because the Angel has changed this unused ground, this ‘no space’ into ‘significant space’…some might even dare to call it, ‘holy space’.

The artist who created this angelic sculpture, Antony Gormley, has said of the Angel
‘I want to make something we can live with and that becomes a reservoir for feelings – feelings that perhaps we hadn’t known about until this thing was there, or feelings that couldn’t arise until it was’.

Throughout time there have been reports of encounters with angels, and they’re not just confined to the times when the Bible was written. I’ve always thought it must be pretty terrifying to see an angel - not some cute kid dressed up in a nativity play, but a real one, a messenger of God. I wonder, ‘what’s the message that we need to hear today?’

I think most of us have feelings that go deaper than perhaps we admit even to ourselves, but betray our need for more than a mortal life offers. There’s something within every human spirit that always seeks to reach out for more, for something higher. To reach beyond our ordinariness to something remarkable & special. In a spiritual sense, as you lift your head to look up at the Angel, you look away from self and from earth to what some would call the heavens. Maybe this Angel of The North is indeed a messenger too. It’s message serving as a reminder to look up from what sometimes seems the trivia of our day to day living and consider what might be of eternal significance.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Pictures of love blog 8 ‘Love at First Sight’

This months guest blog is written by Rev Nick Moxon he is the District Evangelism Enabler in the Lancashire District  Please feel free to post a comment at the bottom of the blog if you wish. 

We wondered how we would feel meeting our daughter for the first time. As we drove to meet her, my wife and I were silent, engrossed in our own thoughts. We hadn't been waiting long. This was no ordinary pregnancy – 6 weeks rather than 9 months. Our daughter was 3 years old, she could already walk and talk and could go to the toilet on her own. She had already called someone else ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. How could we love her like we loved our two birth children?

Yet when we met her our hearts melted. She was a beautiful, vulnerable yet strong little girl with big brown eyes and ringlet curls in her hair. We instantly loved her. We wanted to sweep her up in our arms and protect her. Nothing or no one was ever going to hurt her again. She had been born to another couple yet, it seemed, for our family. This wasn't just about what we could offer her – a stable home, food, clothes, encouragement and opportunities. This was also about what she was going to give to us – fun, questions and the ability to turn our world upside down.
We've only known her a short time and things are going well. It seems as if she’s always been with us. And the love we offer her is being returned back to us ten-fold!

There are many passages in the Bible about us being chosen by God, that God loves us even before we knew anything of Him and about us being ‘adopted’ into His family – not viewed as second-class citizens but treated as equal to everyone else.

It’s as if God looks at our vulnerable state and His heart melts. He constantly desires to wrap His arms around us and love us. He sees in us, people who are not just helpless – He also sees our potential – who and what we can become – who and what we were created to be.

Being a part of God’s family brings with it stability and encouragement and all the resources of heaven for the rest of our lives and for eternity. What a joy! What a privilege!

My desire is to see our new daughter grow and develop into the beautiful woman she was created to be. God’s desire is that all of us grow and develop into the wonderful people He has created us to be. What an exciting future for us all!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Pictures of love blog 7 'A symbol of love'

October's guest blog comes from Rev Carla Hall, she is a minister in my local circuit 'North Shields and Whitley Bay' and she is based at St Johns Methodist Church. Once again please feel free to leave a thought or comment at the bottom. 

Like many little girls, I dreamt that wedding bells might one day chime out for me – but I knew that it had to be with someone I regarded as the ‘one and only’; a man who would not only bring out the best in me, but for whom I could do the same; a relationship in which both people would complement each other, enabling both to flourish. This is only possible, I believe, through love.  Not lust but genuine love – something that can survive even the difficult times.

A year ago this month, I began to hear those bells ring out for me.  The setting was next to a stunning harbour in Northern Cyprus, where my fiancé (as is now) gently asked me the question “will you marry me?”.  Not isolated as a couple, but near to my family and close friends.  In an intimate and delightful moment, he and I shared his question and my positive response before announcing our exciting news with those who were there with us.  My fiancé knew that family and friends are so important to me that I would want to share this precious moment with them.

A further beautiful part of the story is that the ring that I now wear upon my finger once dressed his maternal grandmother’s hand, as the gold he used to commission my engagement ring is taken from her wedding ring.  This band of gold remains for another generation a symbol of love.  I am certain that, if it could speak, it would tell of times of difficulty as well of immense joy – but the love remains constant, firm and deep.

As you pause for this moment to reflect, perhaps you might want to think about what your significant symbols of love are.  I appreciate that love is too complicated to be confined to an inanimate object, but what prompts you to think of love and why?  What’s the narrative that lies behind the article?

Sometimes earthly love, for many reasons, can feel to be wounded or even broken.  Relationships can falter and fail yet in the Bible we read these words in 1 Corinthians 13: 13 (NIV, UK)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

As a Christian I believe deeply in God, and if I had to describe God in one word, I would choose the word LOVE.  To me, all that God represents, all that God does, all that God is, is love; evident in such things as creation, stories of healing and wholeness as well as in relationships.  I believe that, as humans, we love because God gave us a perfect model.  I might not always express my love perfectly, but as a Christian I seek to reflect the love of God throughout my whole life.  The love that God offers is always trustworthy, always dependable, always pure and always life-giving. 

May we always know love in our lives.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Pictures of Love blog 6 'Hiking'

This months 'pictures of love' blog comes from Rev Jona Sewell, who is a minister in the North Shields and Whitley Bay Circuit. Please feel free to leave a comment or a reflection at the bottom of the blog. 

I love hiking. It's something I do to relax. I walk with friends. We walk in silence, we walk in conversation. We walk in all weathers and conditions. We walk on the flat. We walk in the hills. I find walking helps to give me the space to switch off, or think, or reflect, or pray, or reconnect with God, or all of the above. The more I walk, the more I see the connections between hiking and faith...

The point of the walk is not the destination, as more often than not you start and end at the same place; you return to your beginning. Rather, the point is the experience of the journey itself. However, within the journey there can be several aims; peaks to climb, destinations to visit, achievements to accomplish, or problems to be overcome. There can be immense satisfaction when a target is reached and equal amounts of frustration when things don't go to plan.

On the same hike you can experience all sorts of conditions. Sometimes the weather is good, sometimes too hot, or too cold. Sometimes it's windy, or foggy and sometimes it's just torrential rain.

Sometimes underfoot is solid giving confidence with every step, sometimes it's loose and easy to fall on, sometimes it's too hard and jarring, sometimes it's soft and forgiving while sometimes it's boggy and entirely hard work.

Sometimes the path is obvious and clearly marked, other times it isn't and you have to work hard to keep in the right direction. Sometimes there are several paths to the same peak or marker and you have to choose your path wisely depending on time, travelling companions, terrain, weather or simply how you feel at that moment. Sometimes you just have to forge your own path to where you want to go and be unafraid of crossing new ground.

Sometimes you travel light, on other times you carry more weight. Sometimes you share the weight of the pack with others, and sometimes you take the burden from others and carry it for them. Sometimes you feel full of energy, sometimes more exhausted, and sometimes you just want to give up or wish it was all over.

As you hike you carry essentials for the journey: food and drink for energy, it's important to make regular rest stops and keep refreshed. Protection for bad weather; waterproofs, dry socks, hat. Tools to keep you on the right path; compass, map and a guidebook from someone who's walked that way before.

Despite all your best efforts sometimes you still get lost, miss the turn or loose direction. In times like these you often rely on fellow travellers to help; friends and strangers with more experience and wisdom or who've been there already, those who can set you back in the right direction.

The danger with hiking is that you get so focused on the next peak, or the next destination or target, or on completing the journey itself, that you miss what is all around you, before you and in you. There's a danger you miss the moment, the here and now... The beauty of where you find yourself,  the breathe as you gulp in mouthfuls of air on a climb, the feeling of life within as the heart beats fast and hard, the view that can suddenly appear, the conversation with or simple appreciation of those who travel with you, the thrill of reaching a peak, or simply pausing to look back at how far you've already come - all these can be easily missed if you're too focussed on the next thing, or simply don't open your eyes, ears and mind to all that's around and is happening at any moment. And any experienced hiker will tell you; you never walk alone.

The more I walk, the more I see the connections between hiking and faith... 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pictures of Love blog 5 'Love does not discriminate'

Love does not discriminate

This months guest blog for 'pictures of love' comes from Revd Ric Stott who is a Methodist minister, artist and art psychotherapist. He works in Sheffield as a Venture FX pioneer for the Methodist Church exploring new ways of being church based around the visual arts. More information on his ministry can be found at Please feel free to leave your comments. 

I don’t often make images from a place of anger but recently the way the church has been portrayed in the media has made me angry. Particularly statements made about the church’s attitude towards gay marriage.

So often in this area the church comes across as bigoted, homophobic and deeply unloving in its prejudice against same sex relationships. There is a little truth in this of course; like any organisation made up of imperfect human beings we will have our fair share of those who exhibit prejudice and close-mindedness. Furthermore, many gay and lesbian people have been deeply hurt by the church, myself included. But, this is far from the whole story. There are many people in the church who reflect the love of God shown in Jesus: a love that is open, inclusive and that celebrates life giving human relationships.

In the Orthodox tradition the icon is a window through which we can catch glimpses of God. I wonder if we can catch glimpses of the love of God if we look beyond the headlines that proclaim, for example, that the Pope sees gay marriage as a threat to humanity (A statement that would be laughable and ridiculous if it didn’t have such serious implications for those who believe what he says). Then we may see that love of God expressed in the relationships of gay and lesbian people across the world and celebrate it; just as it is rightly affirmed and celebrated in the love of a man and a woman. Where people love each other and give themselves to each other then Christ is present regardless of the gender of the individuals involved.

Recently the United Reformed Church in Britain has decided to allow blessing ceremonies for civil partnerships on its premises. Unfortunately the public policies of many churches still discriminate. I hope that one day soon other churches will be able to follow that lead and realise that the love of God is far more expansive than they had previously realised. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Pictures of Love blog 4 'Creativity'

As we journey on exploring what love means to us our next blog for Pictures of love comes from my superintendent minister Rev Stuart Earl... 

"It may seem egocentric or mercenary to have a photo of myself or my books under the heading "pictures of love", but read on. What I love is creativity - which for me at the moment is words and stories wrapped into thoughts about how the world and church and faith and love are and what they might be. I have dragged my own thoughts into two books so far published, and one (I hope) about to be published. It's not the money that I do it for (though I need to sell a few more before I can afford to publish the third!), but the risk of having a go, the thrill of completing it, and the risk of what others think of it. Because creativity involves risk - and thrills, and so, of course, does love.

Others of you will have other ways to be creative - the big creativity of producing and rearing children, or smaller projects such as how you decorate your home, how you order your garden, your appearance. Or it might be that you love music or art and have a go at them occasionally or that that is your "big thing". It might be photography, or poetry, or... When we are creative, we are illustrating that we are made in God's image, as the Bible says. He created, so can we. You can't love without having something or somebody to respond to, to risk rejection from, to engage with, to give yourself to. That's what God does with us. That's what, I suppose, in a strange way, we do when we share our creativity with others. Thank God, right now as you read this, for the ways in which you can be creative."

Monday, 28 May 2012

Pictures of Love blog 3 The Himalayas

As we continue looking at 'pictures of love' here is a guest blog by Rev Simon Sutciffe, to read about some of his work as a pionneer minister in the Methodist Church click 'here'. To read a bit more about pioneer ministry in the Methodist Church read 'here'

I recently went on a trip to India and spent 4 nights in a village called Leti in the Himalayas. Below is a poem I wrote about it. It’s a place that I have never been to before, but is now etched on my heart, and I pray, I will see again.

What can be said about four nights in Leti?
Some inadequate words about the place being pretty?
The snow-capped mountains or the dark roaming hills?
The haze of the sunshine or the noise of the snow?
Children singing and dancing or
The bright coloured shacks?
Griffins circling high above or
Cricket played on the plateau below?

But no word can carry the silence of this place
The ear thumping
Heart thumping
Of beauty

And in the end the only
Response that can be made
Is to be still
And be quiet;
Say nothing
Not a word.
Just sit and admire
The craft of our God.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Pictures of love blog 2 The Sound of Silence

Welcome to the second guest blog for the pictures of love project this is written by Rob Bee, a long standing friend, sound engineer, musician, twitcher and Methodist local preacher. Rob was one of the leaders of Cafe Sundae a fresh expression in Timperley based at the Methodist Church. If you want to be involved in the Pictures of love project then check out the info on the link above and send a photo to and please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom if you so wish.

Sound is something that is very important to me. As a musician and a professional sound engineer I need my ears and make a living out of crafting, shaping and forming aural constructs. Sound is not only a medium of information exchange and communication, it can also be a thing of beauty, balance and comfort. I love the sound of an E major being struck on an electric guitar through a cranked-up valve amp. I love the sound of a robin in full song in the middle of the night because it's found a street light and it thinks dawn is about to break. I love the glugging sound made when you pour that first glass of wine out of the bottle. I love the silly noises my parents always seem to make between picking up the phone and saying, 'Hello.' But there is another sound that I think is very special. It's impossible to record or photograph because it's immovable from the places it occurs. It's the sound of silence.

Very often when I get home from a busy day at work in the recording studio I'll just sit on the sofa and very deliberately not put the TV or the stereo on. I will sit and enjoy the quiet. It's about more than just resting my ears, I enjoy the stillness of the empty house and the moments of calm. But as lovely as these times are, the Sound of Silence is greater than that. I have been to many places that are quiet and I've worked in studios where the acoustic treatment is so good that sound seems to be sucked away from you into the walls. The Sound of Silence is greater than these things. It's not like 'no noise' it's like 'negative noise'. And it's loud.

Take a walk in the countryside and you will hear a great variety of sounds – whether you're hearing the crashing of waves on the beach, the wind rustling through the leaves in the woods or the babbling brooks in the valleys there are myriad sounds to be heard that calm the soul. But at other times we hear the sound of silence. It's the sound the snow makes as you stand by yourself and listen to it fall; the world holding it's breath as awaits it's transformation. It's a powerful thing. It compels you to listen to it as it screams at you about it's depth and richness. I find it sometimes in the Morecambe Bay Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when conditions are perfect. It is a silence so complete that the occasional cry of a curlew or oystercatcher doesn't puncture it; it enforces it and makes it stronger. It demands respect; and you obey lest you break the magic.

 The Sound of Silence is the sound of space. It’s the sound of timeout. It's like a mirror. It's a rare thing, it's valuable and it's bizarre. It's not that something's missing - like a TV on mute - it’s that something is very definitely there and choosing to be noiseless.

The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.”  I couldn't disagree more.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Pictures of love blog 1

Welcome to the first guest blog featuring the 'Pictures of love' project, this has been written by Rev Andrew Dunlop, if you want to know more about him check out his blog. Please feel free to leave comments at the bottom, and don't forget that you can join in the project by sending me a photo via the info on the 'Pictures of love' page and also at 

I lost my wedding ring. I'd had it on as usual - I never take it off -when I turned up to an outdoor Karting Centre to enjoy a day team endurance racing, a celebration of someone’s birthday. It was a cold day. We were hanging around in the briefing area for quite some time waiting for the safety announcements and for the melting snow to be cleared off the track. Suddenly I looked down and noticed that my ring had gone. I retraced my steps from the car to the centre, via the burger van, looking for something shining in the snow. I even went through the paper towel bin in the men’s toilets. No luck. It was gone. Eventually I suited up and enjoyed the day’s racing (my team came last), all the time with this lost thing hanging heavy in my mind. Messages were left with the staff of the centre to call me if anything turned up and on returning home, I scoured the house and thoroughly went through my bag to no avail.

Arriving home, I was really quite gutted that I had lost my ring. It wasn’t the cost that annoyed me - a replacement ring would only cost about £150-200 and most of that would be covered by my home insurance. It was the item itself, as if a part of me was missing. I didn’t realise how much it had come to be a part of me until I lost it. I was reminded of the parable of the lady who lost a silver coin, searched high and low and threw a massive party for all her friends when she found it. This ring had been used at my wedding, with my wife making promises of commitment and fidelity “for richer, for poorer, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health... till death do us part”. The ring symbolised those vows, secure and unending. My marriage, and those vows were, of course, still intact. Nevertheless, it felt like something had been lost.

A week later my wife and I were packing and overnight bag for a weekend trip. Just the basic pyjamas and change of underwear needed. Picking up my bag, it fell open and out of a hidden pocket fell a couple of old leaflets and... my wedding ring. It must have slipped off my fingers during the karting trip whilst I was rooting around in the bag searching for something. Time to rejoice, to enjoy a weekend away, to share the good news on facebook, and see the ‘likes’ pile up.

"Imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbours: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God." (Luke 15:8-10)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Picture of love poem

Couples in Krakow lock padlocks to a bridge as a
symbol of unbreakable love 

Have a read of my poem which goes a little further with this idea of 'pictures of love'... eventually this will be able to be heard as an audio piece. 

‘Pictures of love’
Where and how do you see love?
Is it in the eye of the one you love?
Is it there as you chant for the team you love?
Is it seen in the beating of a heart?
Can you pick it up and throw it around?
Can you watch it from a distance?
Can you take a microscope and see inside it?
There are songs that are sung, words that are written
About this word, this metaphor, this slippery thing
That can’t be held down or hung on a hook
 So I’m scouring, looking under rocks and stones
Ripping up roots trying to discover just what it is
And what it does
And what it means.
For there are moments in life when love actually smacks us around the face
For love finds a way
So I picture this love in so many ways
It’s démodé in people that are great actors
But It’s not in the acting of love actually
But in the reality of a kind word said or deed that’s done
Or is it in the words of ‘I do’
Or a man that bled and died on a tree
A picture of love that’s held in a photo of something tangible, of something real
That’s not hidden or fake or fleeting like cake
There are pictures of love in many places
With many people
So take your eyes off the floor and look around
And see the pictures of love that are scattered around.
So maybe the pictures of love are obvious, you see.