Session 6 – Making Connections
During this session participants will:
- explore the implications of us being members of a group (Body of Christ and/or the human race) rather than isolated individuals
- be enabled to make connections between their faith and their daily occupations and activities
- engage with Christian and other traditions to see what light they shed onto our experience and actions
- encourage and energise one another regarding appropriate next steps for their daily lives following on from this course
Ice Breaker Activity
Invite people to share something of their experiences on this course, focussing on their answer on one aspect, for example:
What connections have been made with their working and daily lives?
What will they take away from the course?
What has challenged them?
What has encouraged them?
Opening Theme Prayer
Invite people to place prayers into the prayer box if they didn’t do so as they arrived (will be prayed for towards the end of the meeting).
Introduce the theme of the session and then lead the opening prayer:
Lord God, who has made us all into one body in Christ,
enable us to honour one another in our working and daily lives.
Help us to understand the ways in which we depend upon one another.
Teach us to bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joy.
In our varied occupations enable us to serve one another with dignity and carefulness.
May we receive with gratitude the work of other people.
So continue your work of binding us together in your human family.
[Source: John Ogden]
This short clip isn’t on the DVD for copyright reasons but it offers an amusing, light-hearted but thought-provoking reflection on 1 Corinthians 12 v27.
This clip also works well just before the Bible study instead of here.
In his farewell speech to General Synod on 21 November 2012, Archbishop Rowan Williams said that his enduring impression of the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury was that of “being sent by God” from one situation to another. On a typical day, he said, one can go from breakfast with a primary school to lunch with the Secretary General of the United Nations. On such occasions, he said, you realise you are being “sent by God from one place to another” with the mission of making connections between them, and sharing with them the Gospel.
We may not have the same kind of work, role or life as an Archbishop of Canterbury but his words can still be a challenge to us when we’re tempted to keep various bits of our lives in separate compartments. How ‘joined up’ is our life? How ‘joined up’ should it be? What (new) connections could we make within our daily lives?
How do your Monday to Saturday activities link in with your Sunday activities?
If there aren’t any links, is that through personal choice, circumstance or some other reason?
As our theme prayer has been reminding us each week, God wants to use other people’s hands to be Christ’s hands and other people’s feet to be Christ’s feet – and when there’s somewhere that Christ is needed urgently or badly, he’s more than happy to select some ‘maybe not all that innocent’ bystander and get him to go and be Christ in that place himself.
Some see the passage as also emphasising ‘being’ over ‘doing’. So often we’re defined by what we do rather than by who we are. Society likes to put us in classes. In the world of work this can be very stark – from the classification of whether someone has a job or not, through to different clothes signifying grade or rank, through to certain facilities only being available to certain people. The passage emphasises that we’re an equal part of the Body of Christ just because we are not because we do this or that.
As well as being a celebration of everyone having something to offer, this passage also affirms the concept of ‘interdependence’, in contrast to a common theme in our Western, modern world that emphasises independence. Everyone asserting their independence can poison a community as we’re encouraged to see the gifts we’ve been given as being for our own benefit. Maybe this is reflected in one of the most popular songs chosen at funerals being “I did it my way” – which implies an individualism which stands in opposition to us being a connected body.
The body imagery therefore also challenges us to see beyond our faith as a privatised matter.
The hymn then reminds us who our example is.
It also challenges the belief that we can go it alone or get by on our own. Individualists pass through life as if in a glass cage, never really interfacing or being properly in touch with others. In contrast, the vine and the branches are inseparable, and urge us to seek to work cooperatively and interdependently, not just in our life of faith but in our whole lives.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were….”
(John Donne, ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’, no. 17, pp. 1089. This was originally published in 1624 which explains the rather non-inclusive language with regards to both gender and geography.)
Both David and Marcus talked about an integrated approach to work and life. This seems in contrast to many popular perceptions of work-life balance, especially perhaps in heavier or highly specialised industries where the separation can appear stark. Yet this hasn’t always been the case. Various companies (Cadbury and Lever Brothers for instance) built villages for their workers, and all sorts of amenities were provided. Some companies are returning to this – eg with the provision of workplace gyms, medical services, nurseries, even relaxation/play areas. Some view this cynically as keeping people on work premises for longer. However, might it not be a practical manifestation of a famous quote from Alan Ecclestone, an early twentieth century priest and spiritual writer? He said:
“All of life is spiritual, for all is part of God’s creation. There is no division between sacred and secular, work and worship, religion and politics. Spirituality is not apart from our daily lives, it is our daily lives. But it is a life with a cutting edge not avoiding the pain or fear.”
- What do you think of this statement?
- How do your working practices compare to this ‘ideal’?
- In practice and/or in your opinion, are there (should there) be boundaries between sacred and secular, work and worship, religion and politics?
Discussion and Video Clip
Ubuntu – I Am Because You Are
The South African concept of Ubuntu is encapsulated in the proverb “I am because you are”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that it “means my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in theirs. We belong in a bundle of life. We say ‘a person is a person through other people’. It is not ‘I think therefore I am’. It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong’. I participate, I share’.”
The following video clip isn’t on the DVD for copyright reasons but it usefully and thoughtfully applies the concept of Ubuntu to our contemporary world.
Even if you don’t watch the video clip do take some time to think through and discuss the concept of Ubuntu and how it relates both to the 1 Corinthians passage and also to our daily lives where we are.
God of grace and goodness who made us body and spirit that our work and our faith may be one: may we, by our life and our worship, join in your labour to bring forth a new creation in justice, love and truth; through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen
[© George Carey, 2005 Celebrating Common Prayer, Continuum an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc]
You may not be able (or even want) to sing in your group. You are free to choose whether you sing, or listen to music, or watch a video clip with this song in the background.
‘We are One in the Spirit’ by Peter Scholte
The alternative title to this song ‘They will know we are Christians by our love’ highlights a connection this week’s and last week’s theme.
This is available on several CDs and is also downloadable from iTunes. There are also various online versions of the music alone with enough verses to sing to on the internet.
This version, originally made for the American market, has the words being sung accompanied by poignant images, so it is possibly better watched/listened to than joined in with.
If you’re a group that likes to actually sing, a hymn is included in the extra resources section that, although not specifically appropriate to this week’s theme, is appropriate for the final week of a course.
For our intercessions this week, we’re going to try and link our individual, local concerns with the great purposes of God for the whole of creation.
Prayers for the world – starting right here
Imagine, if you will, that you’re standing outside the church you most regularly worship at, looking at its familiar shape, and thinking of all it represents – the worship week by week, the daily prayer which no one sees, the spiritual energy which inspires people for their weekday work, the groups which meet there, the good works done. All the rough edges of that wonderful motley band of Christians that make up that local church.
Now try and see that church as God sees it, and loves it. In silence, pray for the life of the church, mentioning in particular any special concern you have about church life now…..
Now rise above the church and see the village / town / area. Look on the whole of it and be aware of all the myriad activities – people washing cars, people on the golf course, people arguing, some crying. There are plans being made over breakfast tables and shops opening their doors. There are people sitting anxiously at bedsides and children totally absorbed in their games. There are people rushing to work, some with joy and some not. Some are coming home, those whose working hours put them out of synch with their community. As they all journey, they’re seen by those without work, whether by circumstance or choice. This is your / our place, with its streets and parks, its schools and offices, and also with its stories and myths, its history and its dreams.
Now look down on this village / town / area and try to see it as God sees it, and cares for it, cares for everyone without exception. In silence, pray for this place, in whole or in part, holding it in the warmth of God’s good will and purpose…..
Now rise higher still, and see the whole country, with all its teeming vitality, its beautiful countryside and its struggling cities [from the Humber Bridge to the Fens, the Wolds & Moors to Trafalgar Square, Salisbury Cathedral to Birmingham backstreet]. We see a nation rich in talent, low in confidence, loving its sport, addicted to its television, largely content to live without God. We know in this land that the poor are in difficulties, that many of those without work want to be in work whilst others have deeply unfulfilling roles, that some people become ill because of their work, that our institutions are creaking, that it is hard to be a good politician, that materialism is our major faith.
Now look down on this land of ours and try to see it as God sees it, not with favoured nation status, except that every nation, including this one, is at the centre of his loving attention. See this land bathed in the love and grace of God…..
Now rise very high, and see our whole world, as if seeing it from space. A small, colourful ball, blue and brown and smudged with cloud. The earth, our home. So insignificant, and yet so densely packed with life and purpose. A world of infinite richness, complexity, and creativity, yet a world needing very careful looking after. A world that has gone to the brink of global war and has interfered recklessly with its finely balanced natural systems. A world that has made extraordinary progress and yet been immeasurably cruel. A world that has chosen to go its own way, ignoring the Maker’s instructions.
Now try to see this planet as God sees it, precious in grand design and in minute detail. See it and pray for it. The Kingdom of God is a healed creation…..full of people made fully alive…..
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
[Used and Adapted with permission by Mary Vickers, Original version of ‘Prayers for a bruised planet’ by John Pritchard in The Intercessions Handbook Copyright 1997 by SPCK Publishing]
Continue in prayer using the topics in the ‘Prayer Box’.
Again, those who are confident in praying out loud should be encouraged to take a piece of paper and pray appropriately.
The leader should make sure that all requests are prayed for.
Invite people to work individually or in pairs for this activity as they feel most comfortable – but keep an eye out for anyone who wanted to work in a pair but is left on their own.
Give everyone a piece of paper with pictures symbolising each of the six themes of the course on. You can either use the pictures from the leaders’ notes (they’re from the postcards) or something like the simpler suggestions below:
- Calling – megaphone or telephone
- Challenge – jigsaw pieces or other puzzle such as a Rubik’s cube
- Clock – clock
- Compass – compass
- Compassion – first aid kit or bowl & towel
- Connections – chain, paper-chain, or electric plug/adaptor
Ask everyone to spend some time either thinking alone or sharing in pairs about what they’ve learned during the course, whether something that’s personally applicable to them or something more general. After a short time for reflection/sharing, invite them to write a few words next to as many of the pictures/session titles as they wish. This is for them to keep and take away as a prompt to action in the future.
Following on from the above activity, ask everyone to select just one of these learning points and turn it into a kind of ‘New Year’s resolution’ for future action. This may be something:
- applicable to their own work-faith life (eg I will try to be more compassionate to those in my team at work)
- they want to do for others (eg I want to take the following practical action…….to support those I know who really struggle with their work-life balance)
- they want to do to help the life of work be more visible in church (eg I’m going to make sure we pray more regularly for people in all occupations not just the usual ones)
- or…….(ie encourage them to be creative!)
If there’s time, and if it’s appropriate to your group, invite people to share their resolutions with others. Also, again if appropriate, invite them to pair up with a buddy or prayer partner who will support and keep them accountable in their actions.
We focus this week on the body as a whole.
First we think of our own body, reflecting on how it works and how it is joined together. Thinking of our joints, some will be suppler and more flexible than others, whilst others may be quite stiff or painful, whether through injury, illness such as arthritis, or simply because that’s how we were made. Offer to God any reflections or prayers about your own body.
Then move on to think about other bodies to which we belong – the body of Christ, the company or industry we work for, the clubs or societies we belong to for leisure, the human race of which we’re all a part. In the quietness, invite people to focus on their part within those bodies – is the connection flexible or awkward? How could it be made more seamless? Where can you get help to enable this?
After a suitable time of quietness, say the closing theme prayer together:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands on earth but yours,
No feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he goes about to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands,
Yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes,
You are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Blessing / dismissal
Whatever we build,
Give us a glimpse of glory.
Whatever we make,
Give us a sense of wonder.
Wherever we travel,
Give us a sense of reverence.
Whoever we meet,
Give us a sense of awe.
Whatever we do,
Give us a sense of achievement.
Whatever our situation,
Give us knowledge of you.
Help us to see that everything is in your care
And that you allow us to share in your glory.
[Used with permission. From Powerlines: ‘Celtic Prayers About Work’ David Adam Copyright 1992, by Triangle an imprint of SPCK Publishing]
Instead of (or even as well as) this prayer of blessing, even though not specific to this week’s theme, you might want to use the prayer of blessing from week 2 as it might feel appropriate for the final week.