Sidmouth Community Plant News
Dear Friends, on the recommendation of a great friend, I’ve just finished reading ‘A Beautiful Mess’ (How God re-creates our lives) by Danielle Strickland, a Salvation Army officer working with the margin- alised in Toronto, Canada.
In her book, Danielle Strickland uses the creation story in the book of Genesis when the Spirit of God ’brooded like a bird over the watery abyss’ to describe how God continues birthing Divine Order through chaos; a chaos which she claims ‘is inevitably linked to the creation of new things’ and is part of a continuing cycle of chaos, light, expanse, land, seasons, new life, co-creativity and rest.
At several points in the book I found myself saying a great “YES!” out loud. I needed to hear the affirming message that God is not only present in the messiness of our work here in Sidmouth, but that we need to find courage to embrace times of chaos, knowing that this is the very ‘soup of nothingness’ that carries within it such potential: a rich source of light, life and creativity for which we long. There is also an important message here for The Salvation Army and wider Church of course. Our expectations and ideas of how growth and order and life might look, are often quite different from the Divine Order of God’s Kingdom as it breaks into our broken world.
I joined a walking group last year. As a sideline, they have a sunflower growing competition … all I hoped for was that I could keep mine alive! However, one morning I awoke to find the stem had snapped in overnight wind and rain. I was ridiculously upset! Gareth gave me another little plant and I tried again, with better success this time. Meanwhile, the first, broken plant grew another shoot, eventually producing a large sunflower once the competition date had passed. In fact, it has just produced another bud – maybe too late in the season to flower, but who knows? Life is full of surprises if you don’t try and cramp its style. This is the kind of pattern we are seeing emerge in our ‘fresh expression’ of The Salvation Army in Sidmouth. We had such a clear picture of our café and the beautiful expression of community that would grow up, eventually birthing a new church amongst people living locally.
It hasn’t happened like that. We have come up against dead ends all the way; but through the disappointment and chaos has come life. We have held on to our original vision, trusting it is of God, and praying desperately for break- through. Amazingly, we’re seeing most of the goals on our original plan bursting into life, naturally and beautifully … and without that café! One of the loveliest ways we’ve found to connect with local families this summer has been through Lunch Together Fridays. We cooked a hot meal for families one day a week through the school holidays, with support from our local Food Bank who provided some of the food and three excellent volunteers. We also had useful support from Sidmouth Consolidated Charities who gave us a grant covering the cost of hiring the Youth Centre.
As we chatted with parents and played with children, it became clear that some parents would appreciate space for themselves once term starts, so we’ve just started trialling a Cook & Share Lunch Club, where we cook and eat together, sharing ideas, recipes and skills … all with an ’attitude of gratitude’. One of our core values is to be ‘grounded in prayer’ but we have struggled to find workable ways of introducing a rhythm of prayer, so it has been a great joy to introduce Tuesday Prayers, which began on 1st August. Five of us meet each Tuesday at 8am for tea and toast, followed by prayer from Shane Claiborne’s ‘Common Prayer’. We focus on prayer for a different person and aspect of our ministry each week, and also use the following prayer, based on our six core values. With thanks and blessings,