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Posts Tagged "Churches Together":

God’s Giant Jigsaw: The Rev Rachel Parkinson

Mosaic 1


“So instead of lovingly creating a monochrome peoples known as the Church – it is part of my role to work with The Artist to bring together all the raw materials of Jew and Gentile, Male and Female, Theist and Atheist, Muslim and Sikh …. to form the most beautiful, radiant and glory-filled mosaic for all eternity. We might call it Kingdom.” 

(Simon Sutcliffe, Venture FX pioneer – writing in the previous guest post)


Months ago I was puzzled by the muted reaction given to a proposal that Churches Together run a stall at the local community gala.  It turned out that even the natural enthusiasts were left scarred by experience.  The vast majority of the local populace of our suburban “village” on the north side of Leicester had very obviously given the churches stall a wide berth in previous years.  Rejection may be part and parcel of the way of the cross, but inviting it so deliberately was not on most people’s agenda.

 Mosaic 2

Which was how Messy Church came to take over the pre-booked stall on the churches behalf.   One piece of MDF, 3 volunteers and a modest internet investment in glass mosaic tiles later – we were ready to offer people the chance to lay tiles in a community mosaic.


Feeling obliged to do things “properly”, we had literature to distribute (but it kept blowing away and became so weighed down that literally none of it moved).  We had a prayer station in the corner – a holding cross, icon and small stock of battery-operated tealights – but we largely forgot about it in the endless flow of people coming to engage.


One of us was a natural deacon – going beyond our gazebo to alert people to the opportunities afforded within.  Otherwise our attention was focussed entirely on the absorbing process of laying the tiles and, almost peripherally, on the amazing variety of people who came to make their mark.  Encouragement, praise, a minimal framework of rules for mosaic making, and a valuing of everyone’s contribution (even when they didn’t leave the desired grouting gap!) were the hallmarks of interaction.  The cross – with faith, peace, love, joy, hope and trust written into the heart of it – was hardly spoken of directly but was nevertheless the centre of our activity, emerging in colour contrast as the tiles were laid.


A moving encounter was with the grandmother of a multi-generation Asian family.  Wearing a sari and speaking little English, we assume she was either a Hindu or Sikh.  When she saw one of us barefoot and noticed the prayer table in the corner, she slipped off her sandals before tentatively laying a tile or two – a recognition of holy ground.

 Mosaic 3

I kept remembering Gerard Kelly’s wonderful poem*  which begins:


Fit me in somewhere

in this giant jigsaw, God,

somewhere in this work of art

you’re working,

select a space my shape can fill

and with a puzzle maker’s skill

let my contours find their fit without contortion.


For a while, we created a sacred space where a wide variety of people could find their fit around the cross without contortion.

Does it matter that we did not have the growth or sustainability of the local expressions of church as our goal?  As a one-off, surely not.  But am I brave enough to join Simon in saying that this can and should apply more widely?  And – the question that puzzles me – if, as he says, the church should indeed not be the centrepiece of God’s missional activity and yet is still “vital” (in this case, vital in providing funding for the gala booking fee, Messy Church and my stipend!) –  then how do we resolve that tension?

Rachel Parkinson


The Rev Rachel Parkinson, Superintendent Minister of the Leicester North Circuit of the Methodist Church

*found in Spoken Worship, published by Zondervan, copyright 2007 Gerard Kelly

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