Thursday, 13 March 2014

Need an Inclusive Wedding Ceremony? The Blessed Path

near Knighton, Welsh borders

Thinking of getting married, or know a couple who are making plans? You might like the wedding ceremony I wrote last year, 'The Blessed Path', which is available here as a download from Wild Goose publications, (currently at £3), on the theme of 'journey'.

The blurb for the download says:

What has been the journey that brought you to this point? The Blessed Path is a creative and flexible marriage/partnership ceremony exploring the theme of life-journeys and the commitment a couple make to walk together along the path, 'on rough ground and on smooth. …'
A role in the ceremony is provided for the congregation / gathered community as well the the service leader and the couple themselves. The download includes a section of ceremony planning guidance, with suggested hymns and readings and other points to consider.'

'The Blessed Path' is included in a list of liturgies which meet appropriate criteria of the Church of Scotland's 'Theological Comission on Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry' May 2013 (footnotes p.60), so if you are looking for an approved ceremony from a Christian faith perspective have a look!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Small Wonder

For a long time, I have been drawn to the 99 Beautiful Names of God, brought to us by Islam, the religion of surrender to God. One name in particular gives me great delight: Al Musawwir, the fashioner of intricate details, patterns and beautiful colours.

feather on grass in spring

Appreciation of the natural world, especially living in a city, often seems to be about noticing tiny things. I love the thought that I alone have witnessed a ladybird emerging from its chrysalis,

emerging ladybird, currant bush, summer

or I alone have spotted where a tiny spider is lurking,

spider's lair, canalside, autumn

 I have noticed the last elderberry on its red stalk, and the divisions of the twigs, and I have seen my shadowy reflection in its surface.

solitary elderberry, a park in Kings Heath, winter

I have noticed the ripples hidden under the bark, on an old sycamore tree ...

and the light shining through a glossy new leaf ...

a droplet of water, just before it falls ...

and all the potential of new growth, wrapped up waiting to emerge ...

I have watched the ant milking her herd of blackfly, on the underside of the willow in my garden ...

 I and the One who is All-Seeing, All-Hearing, All-Knowing - all names included in the Beautiful 99. To me, these are moments of intimacy, wonder and delight. Sometimes I happen to have my camera with me at such moments and can capture something of the wonder, if only visually.I hope they give you a moment's delight too.

Friday, 7 March 2014

My Publications

 About my books and other things …
I’ve written quite a few books, e-liturgies and other things. If you Google the following titles and my name you will find them  at several online bookstores including the publishing companies’ own sites. You might not find them in bookshops, small publishing companies can’t always afford the discounts that the bookshops ask for and greatly appreciate your support and interest in taking the trouble to seek them out.

My most recent book, which I'm really pleased with, is 'Who do you say that I am? a book of reflections published by Kevin Mayhew for the season of Lent, which gave me an opportunity to explore the story and context of Jesus's life as described in Mark's Gospel, with a special focus on womens' voices, the environment and culture of the day. Jesus comes across as a bit of a rabbinic shaman, in touch with the land and full of Spirit. 

The blurb says ...

Annie ... offers here an insightful and enriching daily journey through Lent, using Mark’s Gospel as a guide book, with reflections, prayer and the opportunity for biblical exploration.

Exploring Lent as never before, Annie has tried to focus on the less obvious things, the little details, the ‘behind-the-scenes people’ and the way the land itself impacts on the Gospel story, to present a fresh way of looking at and appreciating the big picture of Jesus’ self-giving love. In particular, she has looked for the significance of the natural world and of the women who are very much present in the Gospel narratives, but whose voices and names are less often heard.

Scroll down for earlier publications, which are all ...

  • creation-loving, earth-spirituality friendly
  • rich in Biblical references and information
  • sensitive to womens' spirituality and essential equality
  • 'inclusive' in attitude regarding sexuality etc
  •  useful for personal reflection and group work, as well as use in creative liturgy and workshops
  •  inclusive or mainly inclusive regarding language about God - it's not all 'He'; God transcends and embraces all human gender distinctions.
  • make good gifts for people looking for something 'a bit out of the ordinary'.
  • written with a great deal of love and soul-searching.
If you are thinking of using my books I'd be glad to hear from you, find me on facebook or twitter (@HephzibahAnnie).

With Iona’s Wild Goose Publications

Reclaiming the Sealskin – Meditations in the Celtic Spirit (2002) At the time of blogging, on sale for just £6 which is a real bargain! The myth of the selkie, and reflections with pull-out meditation cards (illustrated by me), on 70 themes from nature from oak trees to squirrels, mountains to the moon. Popular with people seeking a closer affinity with the natural world, and with people who like nature-inspired meditation / oracle cards. The reflections include Biblical references.

Wild Goose Chase – exploring the spirituality of everyday life (2006) A companion book to dip into, with a wide range of reflections, prayers and even mini songs and liturgies, on themes of relationship, home, work, our bodies and the passing days, seasons and years. Popular for ‘pattern of life’ reflection, mindful living and just living prayerfully with the everyday.

The Healer’s Tree-  a Bible-based resource on ecology,peace and justice (2011): 28 reflections, fully illustrated (by me) in pen and ink, on themes from the lives of the Celtic saints, from folklore and Biblical accounts, on a mystical love theme drawn from the Song of Songs, on the call back to the garden: ‘Arise my love and come away …’  Ideal for house groups, lent groups etc

As well as the books …

With Kevin Mayhew Ltd

Hiding in God – reflecting on personal health concerns through prayer (2012): I kept a journal over the time I had surgery (a hysterectomy), and this was the result: a collection of prayers and reflections on different themes concerning physical and mental health, from sitting in a waiting room to coming round from an anaesthetic, struggling with self-esteem to facing an uncertain future … I’ve had some really moving responses to this book from people suffering serious illness, finding it a helpful companion book in time of illness - or illness of a loved one.

 Rejoice with Me – Hope for Lost Sheep (2013) I use the theme of the lost sheep to explore feelings of lostness and exclusion from God or from the church and how we can rediscover love no matter how lost or excluded we think we are. Ideal for personal reflection and self-development, also for church self-identity discussion, spiritual accompaniment and group work

And hopefully more on the way …

Thanks for your interest,
Peace and blessings,
Annie Heppenstall x

Sunday, 2 March 2014

St Non's Day 2nd March

near the ruins of St Non's chapel

Up on these cliffs, a woman gave birth alone in a storm. As a young woman she had entrusted herself to a community that somehow didn't manage to protect her from rape by a local wealthy and powerful visitor. Pregnant, she found herself excluded from the same community. During labour she leaned for support against a rock which bears her handprint to to this day, and although the storm raged, around her, a ray of sunshine comforted her. Where she gave birth, a spring appeared. Where humans let her down, God, through nature, responded to her with kindness.

the handprint stone?

The story of Non, a 'Celtic' Christian nun from Pembrokeshire, warns those of us who enjoy a 'Celtic' flavour to spirituality, away from romanticising the past. Non's son is David, who became patron saint of Wales. David is widely celebrated, his mother less so. But David became who he was through Non's single-parenting. When he reached a suitable age she had him admitted to a monastic school where he learned his faith. She then returned to her own vocation and returned to monastic life herself, travelling as far as Brittany to establish communities of her own.

St Non's chapel

 St Non is  celebrated in a stained glass window from the chapel at the site, the lower panel illustrating her journey to Brittany - with David. (Somehow, the romanticism has crept back in.)
Behind the figure of Non is what looks like a railway tunnel. This is the stonework built up around the spring which became her holy well.

 The housing of the spring is just large enough for a person to crouch inside, should they wish to. Pilgrims used to come here for healing, to douse themselves in the cold water. Many came not over the clifftops, but by boat, mooring at a nearby cove where the rocks are the colour of blood ... an earth reminder of birthing, of endurance and sacrifice that is characteristic of Non's life.

a possible mooring place for pilgrims near St Non's holy well

I see in St Non, the story of a woman who defined her identity not by her suffering, but her sense of  self-worth as a person in relationship with God, despite everything life - and other people - threw at her. Because of this, somehow, she seems to have worked some alchemy with all the pain and betrayal she must surely have experienced, to become someone capable of leading and inspiring others - or you might say God worked the alchemy in her. Her story is important, we need to know that she suffered, as many suffer today, but we also need to know that her life experiences did not destroy her. In her own life she experienced renewal. That gives me hope that the same can be true today, for the many who live through ordeals of their own.

ruins of the old chapel at St Non's